AP

Amanda Knox will defend herself in an Italian court against a 16-year-old slander charge

Jun 4, 2024, 12:10 PM

Photo: Convicted US student Amanda Knox, center, is escorted by penitentiary police as she arrives ...

Convicted US student Amanda Knox, center, is escorted by penitentiary police as she arrives for a hearing in her appeal's trial, at the Perugia's courthouse, Italy, Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010. (File photo: Alessandra Tarantino, AP)

(File photo: Alessandra Tarantino, AP)

Amanda Knox will be back in an Italian courtroom this week to defend herself against a 16-year-old slander conviction that she hopes to beat once and for all.

Her chance was made possible when a European court ruled that Italy violated her human rights during a long night of questioning after the murder of her British roommate in November 2007.

The slander conviction for accusing a Congolese bar owner in the murder is the only charge against Knox that withstood five court rulings that ultimately cleared her in the brutal murder of her roommate, 21-year-old Meredith Kercher, in the apartment they shared in the idyllic central Italian university town of Perugia.

A verdict in the slander case retrial ordered by Italy’s highest court is expected on Wednesday, with Knox appearing in an Italian court for the first time in more than 12 1/2 years.

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The slander charge was largely based on two statements typed by police that Knox signed during the early hours of Nov. 6, 2007, under extended questioning in Italian from police without a lawyer or a competent translator. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the conditions violated her human rights.

Kercher’s brutal murder grabbed worldwide attention as suspicion fell on Knox, then 20, and her then-Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, with whom she had been involved for just about a week.

Knox and Sollecito were convicted in their first trial, but after a series of flip-flop verdicts, they were ultimately exonerated by Italy’s highest court in 2015. Knox returned to the United States in October 2011, after her first acquittal. She is now the mother of two small children and has a podcast with her husband while campaigning against wrongful convictions.

However, the slander conviction against Knox endured, a legal stain that continued to fuel doubts about her role in the killing, particularly in Italy — and despite the conviction of Rudy Hermann Guede, a man from Ivory Coast whose DNA was found at the crime scene.

Guede served 13 years of a 16-year prison sentence handed down after a fast-track trial that foresees lighter sentences under Italian law.

Based on the ruling by the European court, Italy’s highest court threw out Knox’s slander conviction last November and ruled that the two statements typed by police were inadmissible. It ordered a new trial, instructing the Florence court to consider only a handwritten statement that Knox wrote in English some hours later.

“In regards to this ‘confession’ that I made last night, I want to make it clear that I’m very doubtful of the verity of my statements, because they were made under the pressures of stress, shock and extreme exhaustion,” her statement said.

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A pioneer of the study of false confessions, Sal Kassin, says Knox’s signed statements follow a playbook of false confessions.

“It is empirical fact that most false confessions contain accurate details not yet known to the public and ‘false-fed facts’ that are consistent with the police theory of the crime, but that later prove to be untrue,” Kassin, a psychologist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, wrote about the case in his book “Duped,” which examines the phenomenon of false confessions.

Kassin said police “contaminated” Knox’s confession, which aligned with police theory at the time.

“To hold her accountable for a statement in which she also implicated herself is absurd,’” he wrote.

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Amanda Knox will defend herself in an Italian court against a 16-year-old slander charge