Amanda Knox began her speech Tuesday in front of an Erie audience with a description of her first night in an Italian prison cell – the silent walk down the concrete hallway to the last solid steel door with a small window, the metal bed frame, foam mattress, wool blanket.
Knox, an American who spent 1,428 days in prison in Italy after her roommate Meredith Kercher was murdered in 2007, ended her Erie speech thinking “everyone is more than the worst thing ever to happen to them. arrival”.
“We all have strength and presence,” Knox said. “At the same time, we have pain and weakness. And if we are careful and aware of the influence we have on others, we can do an incredible job of helping people we don’t even know exist. .”
Knox, now 34, and a journalist, lecturer and author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, “Waiting to Be Heard,” strives to shed light on issues of wrongful conviction, truth-seeking and public shame, according to her website, amandaknox.com. She was the keynote speaker Tuesday at the Erie County Bar Association Law Day Luncheon. Organizers said 551 people attended the event at the Bayfront Convention Center.
“She’s a very strong woman,” said Marian Collin Franco, 22, a student from the Dominican Republic majoring in legal studies at Gannon University. Franco said she heard about Knox’s case at a freshman law seminar at Gannon and considered it a privilege to hear him talk about his experiences first-hand.
“I don’t know if I would be able to recover from something like that,” Franco said.
In a case that made international headlines, Knox, from Seattle, spent nearly four years in an Italian prison after his British roommate was killed in Perugia, Italy, where the two were studying. Knox and her then-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were convicted of the murder. An appeals court cleared them but their acquittal was overturned and they were re-convicted. In 2015, Italy’s highest court overturned the murder convictions of Knox and Sollecito. Rudy Hermann Guede was convicted of the murder in a separate trial.
From 2015:Amanda Knox grateful to have ‘get my life back’ after court saga
When Knox asked who among the Erie audience members had heard of her case, nearly all hands went up.
“But despite all the international media attention on this case over the years, you’d be surprised how few people have heard of Rudy Guede,” Knox said. “A lot of people don’t even remember the name of the victim in this case, Meredith Kercher.
“The name and face that define this horrific crime are mine.”
Knox said there was no evidence she committed the crime, but she said police spent eight years trying to prove her “gut instinct” that she did.
“To do that, they had to create a monster,” she said, mentioning the nickname “Foxy Knoxy” she ended up with and other negative portrayals of herself.
“I had no reason to commit this crime, but it didn’t matter because the real me was buried under a mountain of tabloid speculation and scandal and that was the story,” Knox said. “It was a story that spoke to people’s fears and fantasies and made headlines, the crime of the century for so many.”
She says she first believed in the court, in justice and in finding the truth. She was later sentenced to 26 years in prison.
“It wasn’t the most truthful story that won,” she said, “it was the most controversial.”
Knox said she wrote her memoir “to add my only voice to the chorus of voices that were creating my experience without my consent. And when I did, I was called a narcissist, a liar, and a psychopath.” .
Through it all, Knox said, she had the support of her family. She also said the appeal system was easier in Italy than in the United States.
When it was all done and Knox learned through the Innocence Network that there were other cases of wrongful conviction, she achieved her goal, she told the Erie crowd.
From April:Amanda Knox, exonerated in Italian murder case, to speak at Erie Law Day event
She began by being a bridge across an insurmountable barrier, that of language, she says.
“I realized I didn’t have to give up on this dream after all,” Knox said. “That I just had to modify it a bit. That my dream had become a bridge across a very different insurmountable barrier – judgment. The judgment we have for people accused of crimes, whether they committed them or not.
“It led me to become a journalist and an activist,” Knox said. “It made me understand some very, very hard truths about the criminal justice system around the world but also here at home, things we’ve learned from other places and things we’re thankful we don’t have to. deal here.”
Madison Perseo, 20, of Erie, and Karla Jimenez, 25, of Alexandria, Va., are Gannon students who attended the event. They said they wanted to be lawyers. Jimenez said Knox’s story was inspiring. Perseo said it would help him keep an open mind.
Also at Tuesday’s event, the Erie County Bar Association honored lawyers and community members with its annual awards. They were:
Chancellor of the Bar Award – Erie Attorney Robert G. Dwyer. The award recognizes a member of the Erie County Bar Association who has been nominated by his peers for significant contributions to his practice, his attitude towards the court and his fellow lawyers, and his participation in civic affairs and life community, according to the association.
Pro Bono Award—Robert C. LeSuer, Erie attorney. The award honors the pro bono efforts of a member of the Erie County Bar Association who has contributed to the provision of civil legal services to the poor.
Liberty Bell Award – Lori Dolan, Past President of the Erie Chapter of the League of Women Voters. She has also served as the league’s president, vice-president and secretary and worked on numerous league committees. The Liberty Bell Award recognizes a local non-lawyer for community service that has strengthened America’s system of liberty under the law.
Diversity and Inclusion Community Award — Tywonn T. Taylor is the inaugural recipient of the award. He is the director of programming for Mercyhurst University at the Booker T. Washington Center and is the founder of Careers and Dreams, an organization that supports and provides opportunities for inner-city youth.
This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Amanda Knox tells story of exoneration after murder in Italy to Erie mob