Next for Knox: Can decide how to tell her story
SEATTLE (AP) — Even as she reconnects with family and freedom, Amanda Knox can plan how to tell her own story.
The former American exchange student could get a book deal that easily reaches seven figures — and help pay back her family the money they spent to overturn her murder conviction in the death of her roommate in Italy. Speaking fees could earn her $50,000. Plus there are the movie rights.
And with all the money comes the chance to counter the lingering suspicion of some people around the world that she might have had something to do with Meredith Kercher's death. It was a sentiment expressed just Wednesday by an Italian judge who voted to overturn her conviction.
Her supporters, naturally, feel differently.
"The importance of her telling her story is to give a picture of hope to people, but also to correct the misperceptions of her, the mischaracterizations of her, of who she is as a person," said Dave Marriott, a publicist hired by the family in 2007.
"For her to tell her story will help people understand what a wonderful young woman she is," Marriott said. "She has a very heartfelt story to tell."
And that story so far has been fodder for the tabloids. In Europe, she was dubbed "Foxy Knoxy." In the U.S., she became a cause celebre. In the countless hours of TV footage and hundreds of stories, there's a lot of material that she will need to counter.
Knox, 24, returned to her hometown of Seattle on Tuesday, a day after a court freed her and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito.
She had been in custody since 2007, when the couple and another man were accused of killing Kercher, her British roommate, as part of a bizarre sex game. Her conviction was overturned after an independent review discredited DNA evidence presented in her first trial.
Despite that and what some saw as a far-fetched theory by prosecutors, suspicions remain in some quarters about how much she knew about the crime. Hundreds of young Italians jeered the acquittals outside the courtroom, yelling "Shame! Shame!"
And on Wednesday night, one of judges who served on the appeals court jury, Claudio Pratillo Hellmann, stressed on state TV that the acquittals "resulted from the truth that was created in the trial."
"But the real truth could be different," he added. "They could also be responsible, but the proof isn't there."
Questions remained about some of Knox's behavior after her arrest. She reportedly turned cartwheels and did splits as she waited for police questioning. Investigators said she sat on Sollecito's lap, making faces and kissing him.
Knox confessed to having been at the apartment, covering her ears to drown out Kercher's screams, and later changed her story to say she was at Sollecito's apartment. She was convicted of wrongly implicating her boss, Congolese bar owner Diya "Patrick" Lumumba.
She tried to explain away those actions by saying she "tends to act a little silly" under stress. Knox claimed the statements she gave to police were a fantasy she constructed during a long interrogation in Italian — a language in which she was not yet fluent.
Bruce Merrin, a Las Vegas publicist who arranges appearances by high-profile speakers, said he's followed Knox's case closely.
He said it has many elements of a gripping tale that could bring top dollar: the injustice of her imprisonment and treatment in the tabloids, the tragedy of her roommate's death, and the support, love and ultimate vindication of her family.
Companies and trade associations would happily pay $50,000 to have her speak, he said.
"You look at her story and the cruel treatment she had to endure, the whole story touched my heart," he said.
People who have been raising money to help her parents defend her believe that those images are not the Knox they know.
"There's a real belief in her innocence here in Seattle and around the world," said Anne Bremner, a Seattle attorney with the support group Friends of Amanda, which raised at least $80,000 to help Knox's parents.
"I think we heard her testify. She testified for two days. Maybe she just wants to fill in some of the blanks: Why did she stretch in the station, the so-called 'cartwheels' and how did this affect her, how did it change her. I think she's ready to tell that story," Bremner said.
Paul Levinson, a professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University, said that after television interviews, book and movie deals are counted, Knox could easily expect to rake in more than $3.5 million for telling her story.
"Given the fact that she was found innocent, that her family spent over $1 million in her defense, that she spent 4 years in prison, on a moral level she's entitled to get every dollar she can get," Levinson said.
"It's a real horror story with a happy ending, and that's why there's so much interest and why there will continue to be," he said.
It could, however, be months before Knox speaks publicly, Marriott said. In the meantime, he advised the family to "go dark." He's already fielded hundreds of calls and emails with interview requests and offers from book and movie agents and publishers.
Three of Seattle's main TV stations and a radio station have pulled their crews out of Knox' neighborhood to give the family privacy.
"She needs to find a way to get back to normal life and figure out what the next steps are she wants to take in her life," Marriott said. "The interest in her story is not going away."
Gene Johnson can be reached at http://twitter.com/GeneAPseattle