In our debut episode of Season 4, Amanda Knox joins the show to talk candidly about her story and share her passion for shedding light on the issues of wrongful conviction and criminal justice reform. Knox spent nearly four years in an Italian prison and eight years on trial before being exonerated of murder charges. The case made international headlines for nearly a decade and thrust Knox into the spotlight. Her story and wrongful conviction were then chronicled in a 2016 Netflix documentary, and in Amanda’s own New York Times best-selling memoir, “Waiting to Be Heard.” In this edition, she talks with Jonathan Amarilio and Trisha Rich about how her public and private identity have been shaped by these events, her attempts to reclaim her own narrative and her passion for criminal justice reform.
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Jonathan Amarilio: Hello everyone, and welcome to CBA’s @theBar podcast where we have unscripted conversations with our guests about legal news, topics, stories, and whatever else strikes our fancy. I’m your host, Jon Amarilio at Taft Law and joining me as co-host today is Trish Rich of Holland & Knight. Hi Trish.
Trish Rich: Hey John.
Jonathan Amarilio: Trish, followers of the pod will know that in Season One, we spoke with Amanda Knox’s, Italian defense team. It was an intensely interesting conversation that covered everything from the evidence of the case to comparative law discussions about the differences between the Italian and American criminal legal systems. Today, we are joined by Amanda herself. Now, as always, this conversation is unscripted and we haven’t previously spoken with Amanda. We haven’t game planned the conversation much less set out rules or discussion points. Having said that, let me lay this down as an accepted fact for our conversation today.
Amanda Knox, did not kill Meredith Kercher. We went into some detail about the evidence in our prior podcasts with Amanda’s defense team and we’re not going to rehash it here today. We are not here to discuss the details of the crime, but it is worth taking a moment to remind our audience or perhaps inform them for the first time of the overwhelming evidence establishing the guilt of Rudy Guede. Guede was a known thief having been tied to several burglaries including in the weeks leading up to Meredith’s murder. Guede was known to carry deadly weapons, including a knife during at least one of those prior burglaries.
Meredith had numerous defensive wounds, suggesting a struggle with a killer who was strong enough to overcome her. Guede had wounds on his hand, suggesting he was recently in a physical struggle. Guede’s DNA was found on Meredith in a manner suggesting attempted sexual contact. Guede’s feces were found unflushed in the apartment’s bathroom toilet. Guede’s footprints and shoeprints were found in Meredith’s blood at the scene of the murder. Guede’s bloody palm prints were found on the pillow beneath Meredith’s hips. Guede’s fingerprints were found in Meredith’s blood beneath her body. Guede’s fingerprints were also found on Meredith’s purse, which contained the only items missing from the apartment that night. Guede fled Perugia Italy for Germany soon after the killing.
The evidence against Guede was as I said, overwhelming. Suggesting — if not demanding a conclusion, no more complicated than this. Guede broke into the apartment. He decided to relieve himself mid-crime. A surprisingly common occurrence in burglaries. Meredith came home as Guede was in the washroom and he decided not to flush the toilet and thereby alert her to his presence. Rather than flee, Guede chose to attack and rob Meredith, which he did resulting in her death, her murder. Guede was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison, although his sentence was later reduced on appeal to 16 years. One would think that should have been the end of it but it wasn’t. Early in the investigation, the police and Italian Prosecutor focused on Amanda and her boyfriend starting with the conclusion that Meredith’s death was part of some deviant sex game gone wrong. And that was the version that we all first came to know. The scheming promiscuous woman, Foxy Knoxy as the tabloids described her using sex to control men to evil ends. It’s a sexist trope as old as storytelling itself and because it was both sensational and so unconsciously familiar, the press and the public aided up in a global feeding frenzy. Amanda and her boyfriend were convicted of Meredith’s murder and after a drawn-out legal process that saw Amanda sit in prison for nearly four years, her conviction was eventually overturned by Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassation. To be clear, the court didn’t simply enter a finding of not guilty. It affirmatively found Amanda innocent. An extremely rare occurrence based on the botched manner in which the investigation was conducted, and the debunking of the purported evidence against her. And then Amanda came home, which is where we’d like to begin today. Amanda, welcome to @theBar.
Amanda Knox: Thank you so much for having me. Wow, that was a very intense introduction but I appreciate it.
Jonathan Amarilio: Well, we are lawyers. So, you know, we’ve been accused of worse, I suppose.
Amanda Knox: No, I thank you and thank you for — you know, you mentioned at the beginning of this that you weren’t going to interrogate me about the facts of the crime and that’s really refreshing because I do feel like to this day, I’m supposed to answer for Rudy Guede’s crime in many ways. I’m supposed to like, demystify it for people and that was very refreshing to not be the one responsible for doing that on this podcast episode. So, thank you.
Jonathan Amarilio: Well, you know, let’s start there. This event has in so many ways come to define your life.
I don’t say that to mean that this was the only important thing that happened in your life. I mean, I guess what I mean is that when most people think about this murder, they don’t think of the victim, Meredith. They don’t think of the murderer, Guede, they think of you, they know your face, they don’t know Meredith’s face, they don’t know Rudy’s face. How do you go about life knowing that this profoundly unfair, but perhaps inevitable lens through which most of the world views you? What’s that like? I don’t even know how to formulate the question properly, it just popped into my head.
Amanda Knox: Yeah. No, it’s the question that I’ve been asking myself for a long time and it’s the ongoing struggle because it’s absolutely true that I live with the stigma of another man’s crimes. I’m the one who has to carry that reputational burden and it means that everywhere I go throughout the world. I know that there is an idea of me in someone’s mind whenever I encounter them and that I’m going to be forever in conversation with that through that lens and with that character in someone else’s mind.
How do I live with it? I don’t know. There’s no choice but to, I guess the thing that I’m trying to do is figure out if I have any valuable insights about human nature or about interpersonal relationships based upon that very unique, inescapable fact of my experience. That’s something that I live with on a very real level every, every, day and it makes me, I guess sensitive to the various ways that we all have a character that is in someone else’s mind that we’re being sort of judged against. I don’t know, I think that it’s a struggle and sometimes it makes me just want to disappear and it makes me feel like no matter what I do nothing is going to matter as much as the actions of other people and how they’ve impacted me. So, I have to push against that impulse to disappear and to give up and be defeated and to instead say, “Well, I am a worthwhile person and I can do worthwhile things. So, I’m just going to keep plugging along and doing them.”
Jonathan Amarilio: And that instinct, you know? To try to run away from this strikes me as like, the most human reaction possible.
Amanda Knox: But it’s also the least productive, right?
Jonathan Amarilio: Right.
Amanda Knox: You can try to run away from what? You know, the world’s perception of you but you live in the world and you’re a person and we’re all social animals. And so, it does matter what people think of us and it does matter that the first thing that people think of when they think of me is a murder that I didn’t commit.
Trish Rich: Do you think that’s gotten better over time? Because it’s been — you’ve been back in the States now for a long time and so, there’s been the passage of time, since the crime, the conviction, the exoneration, all of these things. But then also, you’re just older now, right? And so, has that felt lessened to you over time?
Amanda Knox: It’s gotten more nuanced. So, I think the fact that I’m living in less of a black and white world where people feel really, really strongly about the story that they were told; whether it’s; Amanda Knox is this naïve, totally innocent, innocent person who is just this helpless damsel in distress; or it’s the horrible psychotic whore monster. Like, I think that people understand that I am a more nuanced person than those like, black and white characters that I was portrayed as. I think that the difference today is that I’m having conversations like these with people like you and with other people to. I think people are starting to realize that there’s more to my story than just “did she, or didn’t she?” That there’s a whole story about — how much does storytelling impact a person’s life and how much are our identities, not of our own making and is that something that we can all relate to or not? I think that that’s my impression today, is that when people are curious about my experience, they’re curious about what the hell do you do when you find yourself having zero or little agency in — not just what happens to you in life, but who you are in your own life?
Jonathan Amarilio: Do you think on that point that the #MeToo movement and everything that’s come in its wake is forcing us as a society to re-evaluate some of the assumptions that I think led to your conviction. As I think I said at the top of the program, the narrative put out about you is ancient, right? History books are — I know you’re a nerd and history books are littered with examples of powerful women brought down by some version of the exact same story.
The seductress using sex to control men and advance their own evil ends. Do you feel like we’re in the broader swath making progress on that? Or is it just one conversation at a time?
Amanda Knox: I do think that #MeToo at the very least brought to light how universal the experience of women being either exploited or vilified through their sexuality is that it’s not just this — it’s not an uncommon occurrence, it’s actually strikingly and shockingly common. And there are different degrees to which it happens in any individual moment but that it’s something that is deeply felt by a large quantity of women. And so, I think that that is a really important thing and it gives one pause. I think that the #MeToo movement offered people the opportunity to pause and reconsider their immediate assumptions about a woman when she is portrayed through a sexualized light, which is great. And I think it also, what it did was it gave women a sense of coming together to address something that is universal. At the same time, I think that there’s been a lot of pushbacks and a lot of appropriate pushbacks to the idea that — I remember a really important conversation that — and it’s interesting to find myself at this intersection because yes, I’m 100% pro addressing like how women have been exploited and harmed on both the — side of you are accused of a crime but also in the side of a crime happened to you and you’re trying to get it legally addressed.
There’s also the issue of my friends who have absolutely been a falsely accused of rape and it was a “he said, she said,” and she said, one in that case and then the young man who didn’t do anything wrong went to prison. And so, I think that there’s been some interest — I think again, there’s an impulse to like in the advocacy movement to make things seem very black and white when it is gritty and nuanced and you need to like be comfortable entering into uncomfortable, gray spaces. But ultimately, I think yes, the other has been a positive impact with people questioning their automatic assumption that if a woman has been presented to them as a crazy psycho trainwreck, maybe, just maybe, that’s a false story that is being used to dismiss their experience.
Jonathan Amarilio: And maybe people will be more hesitant to present them as a crazy, sex-crazed maniac to begin with, right?
Amanda Knox: Yeah, exactly. And yet and, you know, just this past year there was a movie that presented yet another version of the Amanda Knox character who’s having sex with her roommate and then tries to get her murdered. So, like —
Jonathan Amarilio: Spoiler alert guys.
Amanda Knox: Spoiler alert.
Trish Rich: Yeah, let me ask a question about that. And so, I will say the movie Amanda is referencing right now is “Stillwater,” and if you have not seen it yet and you are one of these people that cares a lot about spoilers. You should probably skip ahead a couple of minutes.
But yes, I saw a lot of press around this movie and in some of the interviews you gave around it. And you know, the story is, openly and obviously based on your experience and Meredith’s death. But then it ends with the young woman and the story actually being involved in Meredith’s death or the character’s death that put me on who is portrayed to have been Meredith. So first of all, have you seen the movie?
Amanda Knox: I have not seen the movie but I know what the story is and I know how it ends.
Trish Rich: Yeah, and so what was your reaction to that? Because I watched it to prepare for today’s interview and I was very surprised that it ended that way.
Amanda Knox: Well, I think that it’s just so Hollywood because — and I understand that creative impulse like there is this creative impulse to just say, “Okay, we’re going to take this nugget from real life,” which is what all creative people do. They take a nugget from real life and then they go “And now we’re going to fictionalize it and we’re going to fictionalize it by telling the most thrilling, shocking story that we can.” And of course, they would land on — well twist at the end, she is implicated. But the frustrating thing for me is that they didn’t fictionalize it enough, right? They were lazy fictionalizers, like if you’re going to take fiction, you’re going to — the way that the creative process works is you do take things from real life, you take little hints and character traits and dramas that you see around you and you piece them all together in this beautiful creative mosaic that says something about the world that you think is interesting.
But in this case, they chose to very, very closely follow the drama that was presented in my own court case and was used to vilify me and they also took the — sort of ongoing drama that I deal with which is that hint of people thinks, that somehow, I must be somehow implicated indirectly or directly even if I was found innocent. That’s the sort of lingering stigma that I live with and they just reinforced it. And then of course they used my name to promote the film. So, like “Wink, wink. It’s based on, inspired by, but it’s not her, but like, you’re thinking of her and that’s how we’re getting you to come see the film.” That’s the thing where it’s like, don’t lie to me and say that you’re fictionalizing it and therefore, it’s not going to have consequences for me as a person.
Be a better creator, be a better storyteller, stop exploiting the drama that surrounds me and not acknowledging how it’s going to impact me personally. That’s the thing that always bugs me about these fictionalizations, is people pretend that because they put a new name on it or they slapped a new — it’s in France and not Italy. Then people are not going to obviously draw parallels and then be influenced on their opinion about the case because not everyone has the time to dig into all the dirty details. They’re just left with an impression and that impression of a person is something that has actual consequences for that person’s life.
Jonathan Amarilio: That’s what struck me about the movie when I watched it as well. That “twist” was exactly what you would been accused of, right? So, it was really only a twist if you knew something about the case and had more than reasonable doubt about your guilt. And then, you have this ending and it makes you question. “Oh, well maybe she was indirectly involved, somehow,” right? Like that was a conscious decision that the filmmakers made not to tell your story or something proximate to it but the tabloids version of the story. Ultimately and to counter the narrative that has been established definitively now in the Italian Supreme Court.
Amanda Knox: And the thing is, I could even see them doing it unconsciously. Like they say, “Okay, we’re going to start with Amanda Knox and you know, writer’s room, writer’s room, throw out some ideas.” But then of course, they do the most obvious thing. They were lazy storytellers because they didn’t even realize that they were just telling the same story that’s been in the tabloids this entire time.
Jonathan Amarilio: Yeah. So, you brought up how it impacts you. Do you think that when — be it journalists or creatives are telling a story like this, they should pause and think about the effect that the way they’re telling the story has on their subject?
Amanda Knox: Yeah, and I think that it’s interesting that we’ve sort of been having conversations around that in the world of creatives and stories because of course, we’ve seen how in the past when the only time that we see a young black man in a film and he’s always a thug or he’s always a basketball player. That sends a message to the broader society about what we can expect about those kinds of individuals and we’ve seen that, like, sort of relying and always doing stereotype is going to impact real people’s lives.
The thing that I wanted to show was, yes, that happens on a sort of broad, like stereotyping kinds of people perspective but it also happens on an individual perspective. Another thing I want to point out about it is it’s like when we keep — it’s not just Stillwater. It’s not like there’s — I can’t tell you the number of shows or novels that have very, very lazily, just re-hashed the same story, the same tabloid story about girl-on-girl crime. And very, very, obviously presented this story in the world as like, “Oh, Amanda Knox but with this twist or Amanda Knox but that twist” and it’s doing a disservice also to the reality of this crime; which is that a young woman was raped and murdered by a guy and everyone forgets that. That is also a disservice to the reality of this example of violence against women. And it’s frustrating to me that the fantasy which is clearly, just some misogynist fantasy keeps getting platformed as opposed to a real story that can tell — that one can say something more about actual women’s experiences
Jonathan Amarilio: And that piece of lived wisdom is probably a good place for us to take a break. We’ll be right back.
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And we’re back so Trish, just before we took a break. I saw you raising your hand over there. You have a question for Amanda?
Trish Rich: Yeah, thanks. So, Amanda, one of the things that you’ve become known for since you’ve come back is working on certain criminal justice reforms and one of them, I’ve heard and read different interviews you’ve done about false confessions. Your case in particular has not every hallmark of a false conviction but like maybe 90% of them, right? You are a young woman, you didn’t really know the language, you were kept from seeing a lawyer. You were in jail for many days, you’re interrogated overnight, et cetera and now, almost 15 years later. So, I think my question is, do you think the body of study around false confessions has evolved significantly since you went through that experience or not really?
Amanda Knox: That’s a great question. You’re right, that like, of all the sort of criminal justice reform issues that I’m passionate about, false confessions are potentially the one that I am the most passionate about and I think is so important because of how devastating a confession is in a criminal trial. It absolutely in so many instances, trumps the evidence, the actual physical evidence and it colors people’s perception of a human being in a really, really deep way, which is why police and prosecutors remain, very, very protective of the liberties that they can take in an interrogation room. Because they know that it is their most important evidence against someone and the easiest evidence to obtain because you don’t have to — it’s not expensive to just sit someone in a room for a long time and manipulate them into implicating themselves. It is expensive to do a thorough investigation that requires a lot of scientific analysis and legwork and asking witnesses blah, blah, blah. If you can isolate an individual and make them implicate themselves, you make your job very easy. What’s unfortunate is that, the things are allowed to do in an interrogation room are very, very effective at getting guilty people to confess. They are also very, very, very effective at getting innocent people to confess and that’s the issue.
Before all of this happened to me, I had no idea. It was not on my radar, I thought that short of someone putting corkscrews underneath someone’s fingernails, no innocent person would ever, ever, ever, implicate themselves in a crime. I just could not imagine it. And indeed, the vast majority of people cannot imagine what it feels like to be coerced in that way and even as it was happening to me, I didn’t understand what was going on. One of the things I want to point out is — or like that, I say often is people assume that the worst part of that experience that I went through was going and receiving a guilty verdict and having a judge say, “You are guilty of this crime. You are sentenced to 26 and a half years. Go back to jail.”
That was a terrible, terrible moment for me and it was devastating and it caused a ton of existential crisis because it made me rethink, like, “Okay, well the truth doesn’t matter. So, I guess now I don’t know what I have to rely on anymore,” but like, the worst moment was not that. The worst moment was when the police coerced me into implicating myself and others against my will. They did so by breaking down my own sanity, making me feel like I was crazy, telling me, suggesting to me that I had Amnesia that I had witnessed this crime and couldn’t remember it and I was never going to see my family again, unless I could remember it right then and there for them to write down.
It was the worst experience of my life and I have so much compassion for people who find themselves similarly vulnerable because you are alone in there and you can’t defend yourself. And when you come out of that room, even if it is recognized eventually that you falsely confessed, the stigma that comes with — you are someone who either implicated yourself or you implicated others. Suddenly, you are an “other” and people do not understand what your experience is and they fault you for it in a big way. I faulted myself for it in a big way for a long time, until I was given research on this. It was shown that my interrogation conditions were very, very similar to the interrogation conditions of people here in the US who had falsely confessed and that I was not uniquely a broken individual.
Do I think that it’s getting better now? I do think so because I think that even just people talking about it as if it’s more complicated than just, “they confessed” is a big step forward. I think the fact that there was a whole Netflix series called “The Confession Tapes” where they looked at people who had confessed to crimes but yet hadn’t committed them. I think we’re also having interesting conversations about the various ways that people are coerced. There are many different ways that this manifests itself, you can see it in domestic violence cases where like people judge woman who stay men who abuse them and we don’t understand why. And it’s like, “Well, there are aspects of internalized self-doubt that comes from coercion on the part of the partner.”
So, like, it’s the sort of interpersonal human dynamics that cause people to act in ways that are against their self-interest and against their will are fascinating and myriad. They are also some of the easiest ones to address, like in terms of reform issue. People have been studying in what ways police breakdown individuals in an interrogation room, like “Lie to them” for instance. We could very easily make a new rule that you’re not allowed to lie to suspects anymore and that would have huge results that would lead to a better justice system. And yet we’re stymied in efforts to like try to fix those rules because again, police and prosecutors are very protective of their ability to lie to people because it throws them off guard.
Trish Rich: Right and a lot of the victims of those types of interrogations are young, powerless people, right?
Amanda Knox: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. People who just like the dynamics that you are in a situation where the people who are across from you, talking to you are people who have the power to take away your freedom. These are the people that you rely on for justice and if they’re sitting across from you, saying “This is how it’s going to go” or “You’re wrong.” Even just like someone in that position telling you that you’re wrong, like you can know that you’re not wrong and that you don’t like, I was sitting there. I knew that I didn’t witness Meredith get murdered but they’re telling me I’m wrong. They’re telling me that that’s not the truth, that they know it’s not the truth, they know that I witnessed it, that they know that I have amnesia. If people in positions of power that you rely on are telling you that you’re wrong and they isolate you enough and they scare you enough. It starts to impact you; you are a person — whether or not you’re someone who’s also poor or doesn’t have resources to get a defense counsel. You just being in that position, by virtue of relying on them and they’re not relying on you. You rely on them, makes you vulnerable to suggestion.
Amanda Knox: And it is worth reminding our audience really quickly. Just one of the lies that was told to you that has always stood out in my mind when you were being held in the jail after your initial rounds of interrogation was that you had HIV and that you should sit down and give a hard think about all your former sexual partners and you did that because it would be the responsible thing to do, journaled about it. And what happens, the prison authorities take your journal and they handed over to the press to commit character assassination. This was psychological torture. I don’t think it’s any exaggeration to say that.
Amanda Knox: Yeah, it was a shocking experience and of course — and also, how blatantly manipulative it was.
First of all, the first two week of my imprisonment, I’m being called into a private office every day by a prison official who is interrogating me about my sex life and wants to know everything about my sex life and whether or not, I would have sex with him and what kind of underwear I’m wearing.
So just I’m just constantly being interrogated about sex by this person, who then later informs me that I have HIV. I need to think really hard about who all my sex partners were and they, knowing that I’m spending every day writing in my journal because I’m being watched, the very next day, going into my cell and taking every scrap of paper that had my handwriting on it and then shortly thereafter it’s big news out there in the world that I had sex with seven people in my entire life and what a whore and what a psycho. That itself sort of confirms to me that by that point, the evidence didn’t really matter to the investigators. At that point, it was about justifying what they had already done, which was imprison a young woman for a man’s crime. And doing so, by attacking her sexuality and suggesting that because I was a sexually active young woman, I was also therefore capable of incredible horrific violence.
Jonathan Amarilio: So, you know, that just brings to mind one word that perhaps is used too often, but I think certainly fits here, “Kafkaesque” an experience like this. You spent nearly four years in prison, you didn’t do this, how did you get through it?
Amanda Knox: I don’t know if this is a disappointing answer or it was a very day-by-day kind of situation. I didn’t know and it’s interesting because the first two years of my imprisonment, I got through it in a very different way than I did my second two years of imprisonment and the difference being that the first two years I was on trial and I had not yet been convicted. The second two years I had been convicted and I was on appeal and leading up to my conviction, those first two years, I very much felt like my life was on pause and I was in the middle of a situation that was really big and out of control. But ultimately, the adults in the room would win and I would get to go home. It was just a terrible experience, but ultimately, it’s going to get figured out and I’m going to get to go home. When that did not happen, that sort of distance between myself and my experience and what the reality of my situation was collapsed. Suddenly, I was not just a person who was in prison, I was a prisoner. I’m no longer a person wrongly put on trial. I am a convicted killer, and my life and my community is now bound by the limitations of the walls that were surrounding me. Leading up to that moment, I kept imagining. “Okay? As soon as I get home, I want to go back to school and I’m going to” — like, I’m just waiting. I’m a tourist who’s waiting to go home and after that point, I no longer was waiting, I was trying to make my life worth living. And that was a very, very conscious decision every day after my conviction of, “How do I make this life worth living?” Is it as simple as I’m going to do more sit-ups today than I did yesterday and am I going to write a letter to my mom and am I going to help my friend learn Italian so that she can have an easier time when she’s going out to get a coffee? Like, I set myself really, really humble goals that nevertheless were meaningful to me, and I held on to those things as a way of feeling like my life wasn’t being stolen from me. It was a constant like grasping at what was left and making the most of it.
Jonathan Amarilio: So, hearing that Amanda, when films, like Stillwater come out and reinforce the false public narrative about you, is there a part of you that feels like it’s happening all over again?
Amanda Knox: What occurs to me is that from then to now and ongoing, there’s the feeling that my actual experience in my story isn’t really what matters to people.
The controversy matters to people, the intrigue about whether or not a young woman would rape and murder her roommate is interesting to people. What the experience of trying to acquit that person or convict that person on Trial is interesting to people. But the experience of living day-by-day and trying to make life worth living is either uninteresting or overlooked and that’s my story. When people have asked me like, “Well, if you were going to tell your story, how would you do it?” And it’s like, well my story is one about trying to reclaim agency after my agency has been stolen from me and after my identity has been stolen from me and growing up in that experience because I was 20 years old when this happened.
Jonathan Amarilio: Right.
Amanda Knox: So, I grew up having — before I was even a fully-formed person, fighting against an unjust — not just representation of me in the world. But an unjust reality like I was literally there in prison being treated like that non-reality and for people to continue to tell the story of “Did she or didn’t she” reinforces to me that the human experience that I went through, is largely overlooked by people. That’s a unique opportunity for me because it means that I can — if I can articulate that experience to myself, I can articulate it to others and maybe then it will resonate with people but the burden is on me.
The burden is on me to say, “Actually, I’m this person and that person has valuable perspective and valuable experience and things to say about the world but no one is assuming that of me.”
Trish Rich: So, Rudy Guede was just recently released from prison, a couple of weeks ago and released a couple of years early actually, and it seems like from everything I’ve read. He has been by all accounts a fairly model prisoner and was released with good behavior credits. But as soon as he came out, I saw your Twitter thread saying it “Rudy, you are the person that could actually clear my name. Would you do that?” And him re-Tweeting back to you in the media saying, “You know the truth. We both know the truth of what happened,” which is a little interesting coming from him because I think that is shaped and shifted a lot over time.
But my question is, you being somebody that’s so heavily involved in reform. Do you believe in prison as a rehabilitative device? And in this instance, do you think Guede, somebody who is coming out of prison and who’s been a model prisoner but comes out still denying his involvement. Still pointing the fingers at other people, is that what you think rehabilitation looks like?
Amanda Knox: Yeah, it’s funny. I had like a whole episode of my podcast, Labyrinths where I talked about this because — and it was when he was released initially and then like the big new — so he was sort of released from prison back, I think about a year ago, but then very recently, basically his sentence was reduced yet again, after it had already been reduced. So that he had the time served and was no longer accountable to the —
Trish Rich: Right, he was on some sort of like release probation program.
Amanda Knox: Yeah, exactly. He was on work release and so they were like, “Okay, good job with your work release. We are going to now, just get rid of the rest of your sentence, basically.” And at that time period, I was like you, following what was reported about his rehabilitation in prison that he was a nonviolent inmate, that he was doing charity like working with a charity and all of that. I thought, “Okay, interesting.”
Trish Rich: Right, it’s a chess tournament thing he’s doing.
Amanda Knox: I don’t know, something like that. So, you know, interesting — yeah, interesting. I know that over the years in the past. He had been giving interviews once again, claiming that I was involved in this crime and that he is totally innocent and the only reason that he was put away in prison was because he’s a poor black guy, not because there’s all this overwhelming evidence against him. I was wondering well, is this person rehabilitated? Is he going to take responsibility for his actions? Because he is continuing to perpetrate harm by allowing me to bear the burden of his crimes. So, is he going to — if he’s truly rehabilitated, if he really does feel bad for what he did and wants to be a better person, is he going to try to stop the harm? Is he going to try to actually like — he can’t give back Meredith her life, but he can in a way give me back my life and was he going to do that?
That was the sort of open question that I had in my podcast episode. And then I was tremendously, tremendously disappointed to find that he is not just allowing people to continue to think of me when they think of his crimes. But he’s also putting forth that story yet again. And so, to me what that suggests is, here’s a young man who’s older now, who has aged, who’s probably aged out of crime in a sense that he is no longer such an impulsive individual and he’s probably not going to kill someone. I can’t say that for sure. Don’t hold me to it but he’s probably not, I think he’s probably in different circumstances in his life where he no longer feels like the best thing for him to do in a given moment is to rape and murder somebody.
Be that as it may, he’s not rehabilitated and that he is not taking responsibility for his actions and he is continuing to perpetrate harm against the indirect victims of his actions. He’s not entirely responsible for that because he wasn’t the one who initially accused me. It was the prosecution and then his defense team latched onto that as a way to deflect responsibility from him and he changed his story to implicate me after he was arrested. So, I think that he has not come to terms with his crimes and he is therefore not rehabilitated in that way. Do I think that more prison would get him there? I don’t know. He spent 13 years in prison and it didn’t get him there. I think that we have this idea that if you just deprive someone of their freedom, they’re going to figure out how they harmed people and do the right thing. I think that time again, research shows that that’s not the case, that depriving someone of their freedom doesn’t just automatically get them to understand the harm that they have perpetrated and to do the right thing.
I think that I am not like 100% prison abolitionist person who says “Prison never works and is never appropriate and we should never deprive someone of their freedom” because I do think that there are people who run the risk of perpetrating further crimes and we need to protect society and sometimes the only way to protect society is to limit someone’s freedom and a really drastic way. But I think that the way that we use prison right now today as retribution for crimes and as like an excuse to — as our way of saying, “Well, this is how we’re going to correct you.” It’s not a correctional facility. It’s not something where we are giving people the emotional intelligence to recognize harm and to rehabilitate their sense of personhood.
Another thing and I think — I don’t know if it actually gets addressed, it certainly wasn’t addressed in my prison experience was, I was around a lot of people who had committed crimes who — before they ever committed a crime had been a victim of a crime and how they had been victimized, had never been addressed by society. And I think that we, as a society are lazy, when it comes to wrongdoing, and are not really forthcoming and recognizing how we are all implicated when someone commits a crime. It is not just because that person is a bad person, it’s because that person exists in a world that offered them a lot of really bad options.
So, I don’t know, I think that we can do a lot more to change the prison environment so that it is truly rehabilitative. I think also, we should try different avenues of trying to encourage people to acknowledge harm because I think that’s one of the major things that the criminal justice system often fails to do, is to have people really, really account for how someone has been hurt by their actions. Instead, it becomes automatic like, “Well now, I have to defend myself from getting hurt.” So, I’m not going to acknowledge anyone’s hurt for my actions and that’s really hard for the people who suffered the consequences of those crimes.
Jonathan Amarilio: Here you say that it reminds me of the logic behind the truth and reconciliation models of justice. You also recently reached out to Meredith’s parents, didn’t you?
Amanda Knox: Yeah, I mean I don’t want to get super into that just because people really often want to talk to me about that but I don’t want to put them on the spot.
I don’t want them to think that I’m having a million interviews where I’m talking about how they’re not talking to me. Because honestly, they don’t have to talk to me. I am not entitled to a conversation with them. What I just want them to know is I think that if we were to have the opportunity to have a conversation, it could be very healing because we have a lot more in common than I think maybe they recognize. Like as people who have been harmed by a single man’s actions, we’ve all been harmed in our various ways. Like I feel like we could — especially, in the grieving process like find some common healing through common grief.
Jonathan Amarilio: Okay. So, let’s go back to Rudy then. Hearing the very lived wisdom from you about empathy being a two-way street and understanding where people came from and the circumstances that at least LED, if not caused their decision-making led to rather. Let me ask what’s probably a deceptively simple question. How do you sit there today and not hate Rudy Guede?
Amanda Knox: I don’t hate a lot of people. I’m trying to even imagine someone, I truly hate, it’s very, very difficult for me to imagine that feeling.
Jonathan Amarilio: This is the man who like you said, the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation cleared you. All the evidence points at him but as you said in a way, you traded one jail cell for another. Yes, you’re not in prison right now, but you’re still living this accusation in a very real way and he is the one person on this planet who could dispel any remaining doubt and he won’t.
Amanda Knox: And he’s refusing to and he’s actively going out of his way to perpetrate that harm and to continue that harm. Yeah, I’m mad at him for sure and I think that he’s kind of pathetic, so I pity him, but I think that it ultimately comes down to that is I pity him. I imagine that he is someone who — I pity someone who thinks that the best way to survive is by putting down another person. It makes me think that if you genuinely believe that what you’re doing is the right thing for you like, it ultimately comes down, he is making a choice.
He’s making what he thinks is the best choice for him in these circumstances. What happened to you that you think that letting an innocent person take the fall for your crimes is the right thing to do? It almost makes me feel like, are you someone who is like so divorced from humanity and — were you just abandoned as a child and therefore, you think that it’s fine to throw people under a bus because that’s just how you survive? Is that your world? That’s a really sad and scary world that you live in. I live in a world where you should and can admit when you’re wrong and that there’s a lot of really beautiful and powerful things that can come from that. And I’m not going to like — if he came forward today and said “I was wrong, I let Amanda take the fall for me, and that was the wrong thing to do, and I’m sorry.” I wonder if he believes that he would be punished further. He wouldn’t be punished further by me. I believe that like if someone acknowledges how they’ve harmed you. That is an incredibly healing thing that almost undoes the harm, honestly. That would be enough for me, that would be enough. I probably wouldn’t let him hang out with my baby but like I would have no beef with him.
Trish Rich: So, I was just going to mention that. Now, you are a new parent like my good friend Jon. You are raising a baby girl, right?
Amanda Knox: Yep, I’m raising a baby girl in this crazy, crazy world.
Jonathan Amarilio: That’s a lot.
Trish Rich: These pandemic babies are going to — I think go through reckoning when they go outside and meet other people someday.
Amanda Knox: Yeah. I mean, she’s still very young. So, you know, I feel for people — God, I feel so bad for people who were giving birth right when the world was shutting down and people didn’t Know how careful they needed to be. And so, there are like women who were forced to give birth alone to like a cold hospital room full of people with masks, as she’s going through like this, incredibly insane — I cannot tell you how insane it is to give birth. I did a whole series on my podcast about it because it’s so crazy.
And so, to be isolated like bad, I feel so bad because you really do need community to be a parent, you need a sense of belonging and to be isolated is just insane. I feel so bad for people.
Trish Rich: So, you have your new baby girl and your podcast, Labyrinths with your husband, Christopher Robinson. So, what is next? What are you working on next?
Amanda Knox: So, I’m a professional Storyteller because I have through my own experience realized the incredible power of storytelling and if for good or for evil. I try to do that in lots of different ways. So, I have my podcast, I do journalism and I have a few things in the works, I don’t know if I’m allowed to say them yet.
Trish Rich: It’s just us here.
Jonathan Amarilio: It’s a safe space, I’ve got a whole department of IP lawyers down the hall if you want to consult with them very quickly.
Amanda Knox: Yeah. No, I have a few really interesting things in the works that have to do with this question of who owns whose story and in what way? So, keep on the lookout for that, “wink.”
Jonathan Amarilio: That cliffhanger is the perfect place to take another break. We’ll be right back with stranger and legal fiction.
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Jonathan Amarilio: And we’re back, the game(ph) is stranger and legal fiction, our audience knows the rules. Trish and I have done some fishing around the internet. We found a strange law that is real but probably shouldn’t be. We’ve also made another one up and we’re going to quiz Amanda and each other to see who can distinguish strange, legal fact from fiction. Amanda, are you ready to play?
Amanda Knox: I’m so excited.
Jonathan Amarilio: Trish, take it away.
Trish Rich: All right. I’m going to go first today, so this is law number one. In Michigan, if you are traveling with a freshly cut Christmas tree —
Jonathan Amarilio: Wait. Can you go a single episode without mentioning Michigan?
Trish Rich: I cannot.
Jonathan Amarilio: Just one episode of this podcast.
Trish Rich: I have to speak it in here at the end because there was not any nexus to
Jonathan Amarilio: I was driving to work with my wife today. And I said, “if Trish brings up, Michigan, I’m cutting her off. That’s a commitment I’m making. And honey, if you’re listening to this, I’m a man of my word.” Okay, start over, I’m sorry.
Trish Rich: We all know Bridget(ph) is team Trish.
Amanda Knox: Are you like Detroit hustles harder?
Trish Rich: Yeah, I sure am.
Okay, so I’m so sorry for that untimely and rude interruption. So, law number one, in Michigan if you are traveling with a freshly Christmas tree, you must also be carrying a receipt. Both of my laws today are Christmas-flavored, by the way. Law number two, in New York City, the display of a natural Christmas tree indoors is illegal.
Amanda Knox: That is fascinating. So, wait, so I’m supposed to decide which one is real and which one’s not real?
Trish Rich: Correct. One is true and what is not true.
Jonathan Amarilio: And we’re competing against each other.
Amanda Knox: Okay. I have an instinct.
Jonathan Amarilio: Go.
Amanda Knox: And that is that the receipt one is real because they’re trying to dissuade people from going and just cutting random trees everywhere. I don’t think the New York City one is real.
Trish Rich: Jon?
Jonathan Amarilio: I agree for that very reason.
Trish Rich: I tried to make this one a little easy, that’s right. Right and for exactly that reason. But I will say in New York City, you cannot have a natural tree in any retail store. And I think there was such a story in the news just last week about a natural tree catching on fire in New York City. I wasn’t there and I didn’t do it, but I did read about it. And so, if you’re going to put a tree in a retail store in New York, it has to be artificial. I also read that in Philadelphia. It has to be an artificial tree in any dwelling that is designed to house more than two families, which I doubt is —
Jonathan Amarilio: No way, is that enforced?
Amanda Knox: No one is enforcing that, that is fascinating. Okay, cool.
Trish Rich: But yes, the Michigan Law is true for exactly that reason, they don’t want you just going rogue and cutting your own Christmas trees. All right.
Amanda Knox: Got it.
Trish Rich: Jon?
Jonathan Amarilio: Option number one, round two. In Utah, it is illegal to cause a catastrophe defined as an event causing widespread injury or damage to persons or property through among other things.
The use of a weapon of mass destruction, resulting in an avalanche. That’s option number one. No WMDS for avalanches.
Amanda Knox: Okay.
Jonathan Amarilio: Option number two, in Washington State, your neck of the woods. It is illegal for private citizens to seed clouds with silver iodide, potassium iodide, solid carbon dioxide or liquid propane causing increased precipitation. So, option, number one, WMD, catastrophes, avalanches. Option number two, making it rain even more in Seattle.
Amanda Knox: I have a strong instinct about this one as well, which is that the Utah one is definitely real because I could totally — they have mountains there. People ski, they are really concerned about avalanches and they probably have people with guns there so, it makes sense. Here, I don’t think anyone ever complains about It raining even more because we just dig that stuff, we’re aquatic.
Jonathan Amarilio: Trish, what do you think?
Trish Rich: I don’t know. I kind of am stumped on this one. I just spent a week in Utah, and I would have agreed with everything when you said up until avalanches. That’s kind of where I was like, I don’t know if this is real.
Amanda Knox: Is it okay if I pause for a moment because my cat somehow sneaked in here and now is attempting to find out.
Trish Rich: Is your cat going to give me a lifeline? Great. This Seattle law, it makes sense things to me that you can’t throw things into the atmosphere. But also, it’s hard for me to believe that they’re regulating rainfall.
Amanda Knox: Oh, my husband is now telling me to reconsider my option because of Eastern Washington but anyway, continue.
Trish Rich: I am actually going to — getting a look from Jon. I am actually going to go the opposite way because I’m not sure and I recognize this is my opportunity to pull ahead just in case I’m right.
Jonathan Amarilio: So, Amanda, are you sticking by your answer?
Amanda Knox: I think I am but my husband disagrees with me.
Jonathan Amarilio: And you are undefeated in stranger and legal fiction. Section 766105 of the Utah Code makes it illegal to use weapons of mass destruction apparently because people need to be told that.
Trish Rich: In Utah.
Jonathan Amarilio: In Utah.
Amanda Knox: I mean, I’m imagining a guy who’s like skiing with his submachine gun and he’s just like shooting it at the mountain.
Jonathan Amarilio: Yeah, there’s definitely — Yeah, that’s plausible. Amanda, I can say without hesitation that this has been one of the most interesting and thoughtful(ph) conversations we’ve had on this podcast. Thank you for coming on and sharing your story with us.
Amanda Knox: Thank you so much for having me. This has been great.
Trish Rich: Thank you.
Amanda Knox: Happy holidays.
Jonathan Amarilio: Happy holidays.
Trish Rich: Be careful of where you put your Christmas tree.
Jonathan Amarilio: This is coming out in January, so everyone.
Amanda Knox: Oh, sorry. I hope you had a happy holiday.
Jonathan Amarilio: Yes, there you go, perfect.
I also want to thank my co-host Trish Rich, our executive producer, Jen Byrne, as well as Adam Lockwood on sound and everyone at the Legal Talk Network family. Remember, you can follow us and send us comments, questions, episode ideas or just troll us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @CBAatthebar, all one word. Our email address is [email protected]. Remember, we’re putting together a mailbag episode for early 2022 so be sure to send us ideas for interesting legal topics, cases or strange laws you’d like us to explore.
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