Amanda Knox knows a thing or two about the world of true crime. As you may have heard, Knox was a 20-year-old exchange student when her roommate Meredith Kercher was murdered in their home in Italy. Afterward, Knox was famously portrayed in the media as a sexually deviant murderer known as Foxy Knoxy who had worked alongside her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, to murder Kercher. After being found guilty in an initial trial, her conviction was eventually overturned, and a later retrial before an Italian Supreme Court found her and Sollecito not guilty.
Since then, Knox has been busy. She’s spent her time trying to help others wrongfully accused, giving voice to survivors of true crime and media sensationalization through her podcast, The Truth About True Crime, currently in its second season, which covers the case of the cultish Alamo Christian Foundation. (Season one centered on the Jonestown massacre.) She also has a regular web series, and she’ll be speaking this week at the Death Becomes Us festival. We sat down to talk with Knox about the podcast, the case that made her famous, and her dream of leaving everything behind to make hats.
On your podcast, you often relate what you’re reporting on with your own personal experiences. Was that an important distinction you wanted for the show, adding a point of view that other true-crime podcasts couldn’t provide?
I thought that was a really interesting opportunity to bring some perspective as someone who has been the subject of true-crime diagnosis from psychologists who are hundreds of miles away from me, and who have never spoken to me before. I know what it means to be at the center of a story that tantalizes and entertains people. So being able to speak to that when looking at other cases seemed like a really great opportunity.
In a recent episode, you talk about #MeToo and how at the core of both the Alamo Christian Foundation case and your case, it was about women not being believed.
I mean, the whole discussion of #MeToo and how it intersects with the innocence movement is really interesting. Yes, we have this problem of not believing women — and not only not believing women but finding reasons to vilify them so that we don’t believe them. And I think that you can absolutely have a criminal-justice system that protects the rights of the accused. But at the same time, women have been coming forward, and they’ve been called sluts and psychopaths just for coming forward. There’s a lot that I see in both of these movements that are trying to protect innocent people who have been hurt by people or systems that are bigger than themselves — they have a lot in common, and I kind of weirdly bridge the gap in an interesting way.
Speaking of women being vilified — the Netflix documentary on you features Nick Pisa, the Daily Mail journalist who widely covered your case, but who also seemed unwilling to take any responsibility for how your case was covered. Has this affected how you cover victims and those accused on your podcast?
I think that Nick Pisa is a hoot in that film. Isn’t he? [Laughs.] One thing that the documentary filmmakers, Brian McGinn and Rod Blackhurst, did was to give those sit-down interviews, including Pisa and including my prosecutor, a chance to see the film before it ever came out, before anyone else ever saw it, and every single one of them felt like they were portrayed honestly. And an interesting thing about Nick Pisa is, he doesn’t feel responsible for how his articles affected my life. He feels that he’s a part of a system that requires speed and delivery, and you write one article that says she’s guilty and one article that says she’s innocent and you immediately publish it as soon as the verdict comes out, and you have all these fake, made-up things about Amanda crying or Amanda cheering or whatever. He’s a part of this system, and he doesn’t feel responsible as being a cog in that system — and I look at that and I go, “You’re an asshole, but also you’re kind of right.” Everyone does have a personal responsibility when they are a small piece of a larger system, but he is right that he alone changing this behavior wouldn’t necessarily have changed the outcome for me. Nick Pisa didn’t invent that.
What, ultimately, do you want people to understand about being wrongfully accused?
My main message that I usually try to convey to people is the genuine human existential-crisis experience that comes from going through this situation. The great takeaway for me was that when you cast anyone in terms of good and evil, and you put those mantles on people and institutions, you’re inevitably creating a false narrative about them. Just taking a moment to pause and go, What do I know? What’s important here? So when I think about anything, even my own prosecutor, I don’t look at the criminal-justice system, which deeply hurt me and took my life away, and think it’s a bad, evil thing. I think, Wow, this is flawed and fucked up, but it’s also something that’s really important and is trying its best. And I think it’s very easy to jump on the bandwagon without thinking about it.
How do you hope people remember you?
Oh, gosh. That’s a big question. For a long time, I really struggled with the fact that this happened, that I was inevitably going to be forever associated with murder and wrongful conviction. This was all stuff that just happened to me that I had nothing to do with. It’s so surreal and weird to have that be some kind of legacy that I carry with me when it really just happened to me. I just happened to be Meredith’s roommate, so it just happened to me. I don’t love the idea of, like, going down in history as that girl who was wrongly accused of murder. I hate that. And that’s one of the reasons that I feel so much for other exonerees who also have spent way more time and lost way more years in prison than I have, because I get to come out of it, and I’m still young and I get to do work and people want to work with me, amazingly. So I hope that people will come to think of me as that person who was a part of an idea of treating human beings better and seeing them better. I didn’t want to come out of this experience hating people and hating society and hating the media and hating the criminal-justice system. I don’t want that to be my life. I want to be something positive.
Let’s leave true crime behind altogether — if you could just go do anything, what would it be?
I’m just a silly person, and I think it would be so awesome to make fantastic hats.
[Laughs.] It’s so dumb. It’s not what people expect. I have so much appreciation for the intellectual work I’m doing. But at the same time, I also just kind of want to hide away in a closet and make hats.