Outside the U.S., my criticism of the way the case was handled fell on deaf ears. In the U.K., where she was the subject of daily vilification, any defense of Knox was chalked up to jingoism. In Italy, where she was even more detested, there was even greater certainty about her guilt. After Knox’s incarceration, one of the young men in my class—an Italian—rose to protest.
How could I declare her innocent? “She slept with more than one man!!”
“E allora?” I said. So what?
He looked exasperated.
“In Italy it is not O.K. for a girl to sleep with more than one man. A man can sleep with more than one girl, but the reverse just isn’t acceptable!”
So that’s when I knew. Amanda Knox was going to be convicted of murder. And that conviction would be based on her social life. And in 2009 that’s exactly what happened.
Now that the results of that botched investigation have been definitively voided, the question is: How much? How much does Italy owe two young people imprisoned for a murder in which there was no credible motive, no credible evidence, and no credible witnesses?
The money question is not far-fetched. The families of both Knox and Sollecito have indicated they will seek damages. And why shouldn’t they collect after all they’ve been through? To cover her defense the Knox family mortgaged their house and drained retirement funds. Every year Italy pays around 12 million euros to those who have been imprisoned and then later exonerated, as CNN reported....
“Amanda . . . is a restless person who does not disdain multiple frequentations,” the first group of Italian judges decided in their report—by which they meant that she slept around. As bad, the judges added, Knox “indulged in ostentatious displays of affection with Raffaele, even going as far as the paradoxical purchase of an item of intimate apparel, apparently for use in having ‘wild sex.’”
As many observers concluded early on, the more likely culprit was Rudy Guede, a Perugia local originally from the Ivory Coast, already known to police as the prime suspect in at least three burglaries (in one of which he allegedly brandished a knife) and reportedly fond of cocaine and binge drinking. It was his DNA that was inside Kercher’s body, on her bra straps and her purse, his bloody fingerprint on a cushion in her room, his bloody handprint on the wall. Knox’s DNA, on the other hand, was nowhere in the dead girl’s room, where her body was found. Guede was convicted of the murder in a separate, fast-track trial in October 2008.
Why charge two students with no history of violence? Absent any credible evidence everyone—judges, jurors, media—turned to a one-word answer: sex. Sex made Amanda do just about everything.
This obsession with the American girl’s sex life followed her into prison. Early on, prison authorities falsely informed her that she was H.I.V.-positive, at which point she plunged into despair. Back in her cell, Knox wrote up a list of her previous lovers—which in short order, was leaked to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera and quoted extensively by an Italian author who came up with what would become a habitual media conclusion, one she confided to The Sunday Times: “It’s as if [she] were always hunting men.”
Thus Knox became every Italian mamma’s worst nightmare: the classic blonde, American manipulator of men. Luciferina with an angel’s face, an Italian newspaper called her. Luciferina was dutifully echoed in the courtroom: the girl was obviously involved in some kind of satanic rite. Outside Italy, there were any number of fantasy riffs on this theme. Angel Face: The True Story of Student Killer Amanda Knox, was the original title of a book published by the Daily Beast in 2010. Foxy Knoxy, the Daily Mail called her, in an endless stream of headlines . . .