The Amanda Knox case spawned numerous books looking at whether she's guilty or innocent (Scott Eklund, Red Box Pictures, for USA TODAY)
SEATTLE (USA TODAY) - As always, waiting was the hardest part.
Amanda Knox was waiting last month to hear the verdict from Italy's highest court on her case, the sensational murder charges that had put the American exchange student in prison for four years before an appeals court reversed her conviction. Now back home, too anxious to stay in her small downtown apartment, she went to her mother's house with her boyfriend and best friend. Her father and stepmother stopped over.
They decided to pass the time by watching a movie, settling on The Hunger Games.
Watching the story of a post-apocalyptic world didn't exactly calm her nerves, "but it definitely was distracting, at the very least," Knox says ruefully. The science-fiction film was forgotten when her lawyer called from Rome at 2 a.m. with news all too real. The Court of Cassation had ruled she would have to stand trial again for the 2007 murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher.
"It had gone as we had not foreseen and exactly as we had hoped against," Knox said quietly in an exclusive interview with USA TODAY about her new book, Waiting to Be Heard, released today by HarperCollins. "It's just this thing that's laying so heavy on my heart right now."
It was the first sit-down, face-to-face interview Knox had done with a reporter, followed by other interviews about her book with People magazine and ABC News' Diane Sawyer. An ABC special, Murder. Mystery. Amanda KnoxSpeaks, airs at 10 ET tonight.
Her dream, however distant, of having Kercher's parents take her to visit Meredith's grave are on hold. Instead, she ruminates about returning to Italy for the new trial - her presence isn't required - as a statement of what is at stake for her. The coming courtroom battles in Florence and Rome and, potentially, the United States may well stretch into years.
"I thought there was an end to the field of barbed wire, and it's like it was just the hill," she says, fighting back tears. She had reached "a crest" only to see more peril ahead before she finally might clear her name, reclaim her life and move on.
The decision to order a new trial came as Knox has returned to school at the University of Washington, started a long-term relationship with a musician boyfriend, eased the panic attacks she suffered in prison and afterward, and finished a book detailing her experiences and what she learned from them about perseverance and public identity.
The 463-page book chronicles her version of a story that has transfixed tabloid newspapers and cable TV on two continents. Italian prosecutors portrayed her as a manipulative, promiscuous "Foxy Knoxy" who helped kill her roommate when a sex-and-drug game went awry. She has become instantly recognizable and notorious, lumped in a skit on Saturday Night Live two weeks ago with the Unabomber and the Menendez brothers.
She portrays herself as a naive kid far from home who found herself enmeshed in a spiraling nightmare, the victim of an errant prosecution. Independent analysts have concluded that the microscopic DNA that helped convict her and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, was mishandled and unreliable. She blames herself for misjudgments and missteps, especially for signing a statement indicating she was at the scene during the murder and implicating an innocent man. She says she did so only after a long and abusive interrogation and quickly recanted it.
After an interview in her hometown that stretches for five hours, it is hard to reconcile the prosecutors' picture of a depraved murderer with the lithe, earnest 25-year-old trying to regain her footing. She had left Seattle in 2007 as a college junior eager for adventure and determined to learn a new language at the University for Foreigners in Perugia, Italy. Four years later, she returned graver, warier and fluent in the Italian she ended up perfecting in prison.
She didn't cancel the long-scheduled session with USA TODAY despite the unexpected bad news from the Italian court five days earlier.
"This is my way of speaking up for myself," she says. Doing the interview is a chore to be endured, she says, but after the travails of the past few years, "I don't dread a whole heck of a lot. The only thing that I could really say is similar to dread is this waiting, and this not knowing what's going to happen. Waiting was always the hardest part."
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