Originally published October 23, 2013
For many college kids, standing out in the crowd is something to strive for -- to be a star athlete, a student government leader, or even the host of the craziest parties.
But after four years in a jail in Italy, Amanda Knox would be just fine if she could blend into the crowd at the University of Washington -- and so far, she says her fellow students and instructors are just fine with that.
"I don't look at people and think, 'You're going to be mean to me.' In fact, most people are very nice," Knox said of what it's like to be back on campus. "I'm not hiding who I am. I'm not running around in a disguise."
Still, Knox admits that people in the UW community are understandably curious about a fellow student who was convicted of killing her roommate in Italy, then acquitted on appeal. She said she's not afraid to engage when asked.
"I am really open about who I am and what I've been through. I'm a creative writing student and what do I write about? I write about what I know and that's this experience," Knox said.
Only occasionally do her fellow students engage in rude behavior, Knox said.
"Only when I enter into big, anonymous classes where there is more of a social atmosphere of anonymity where people feel like they can get away with taking pictures of me in class or posting that on the Internet, with inappropriate commentary," she said. "But you know what? I've been very supported by the people I have actually come into contact with."
Knox said she struggles to stay focused on school given what's at stake in a courtroom in Florence. Once again, Knox and her former boyfriend are on trial for the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher.
It's a complex case. At the same time that Knox and her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were indicted for Meredith Kercher's murder and sexual assault in 2008, another man was convicted of killing Kercher. But prosecutors allege Rudy Guede didn't act alone. They accused Knox of luring Guede and Sollecito into a sex game targeting Kercher -- a tryst that went terribly wrong and resulted in the British student's death.
Knox and Sollecito were convicted in 2009 of murdering and sexually assaulting Kercher and they joined Rudy Guede in prison. But there was a reversal of fortune for Knox and Sollecito two years later. An Italian appeals court overturned those verdicts and pronounced them innocent.
It wasn't over.
The Italian appeals court that set aside Knox's conviction in 2011 was overruled early this year by Italy's highest criminal court. The result of that ruling is a new appeals trial, currently underway in Florence.
"I did not believe that I would be going through this again, I had not anticipated it," said Knox.
"I'm in contact with my lawyers by phone. We email, sometimes we Skype," Knox said. "I have a Google alert, of all things, so whenever 'Meredith Kercher' or 'Amanda Knox' or 'Raffaele Sollecito' comes up, I get an email."
Those email alerts can trigger stress, something she said she works hard to manage.
"It's definitely very stressful. It requires me to be very purposeful as far as prioritizing and putting everything in a box," she said. "At this moment I am talking to you and that is meaningful to my life and what I'm going through. After this I'm going to go study like crazy for my math midterm and I'm going to spend all evening studying my math. And that's all I can do."
Critics say the fact that Knox chose not to attend the new trial is evidence that she had some role in Kercher's murder. Knox isn't letting those comments get to her.
"That's people trying to find guilt where there is none. To be quite honest, I think that when people make comments like that it's because they are trying to see guilt," Knox said. "School is a wonderful distraction from that. It's the complete opposite of what this case is that keeps pulling me back into this quagmire."
That quagmire isn't likely to end soon. The court in Florence hearing the new appeal is expected to issue a ruling before the end of 2013, but that ruling will be sent back to Italy's highest criminal court for review.
"There's always the danger of them saying, 'We don't like it, do it again,'" Knox said. But Knox remains optimistic that won't happen and she will be acquitted.
In the meantime, Knox said she is focused on her life here in Seattle.
"I'm trying to be positive about all that I have and the fact that I'm very lucky for being home and not be in a prison cell anymore, and that I'm with my family and I'm actually making friends," Knox said. "At the same time, my entire adult life has been consumed by this case, and it's hard to put it in a context where it ends."