The ending, by completing the circle, brings you back to the beginning.
This Labor Day, when the Italian Supreme Court filed the document making my innocence official, I was brought back to those numbing days in early November 2007. In less than a week, I learned of the murder of one of my roommates, underwent 53 hours of police questioning, was arrested, and found myself in a foreign prison facility that I would not leave for three years and eleven months.
At home in 2015 and just waking up to the day, my plans to go running, shop for groceries, do the laundry … dissolved around me. I was struck by the weight of the trauma that took seven years and ten months finally to resolve. Though a pressure valve released, I spent much of the day quiet and introspective. I felt sad, happy, agitated, calm, confused, clear-headed. I had what I suppose is that feeling of having just climbed a mountain. I was at the top, yes, but emotionally and physically exhausted.
My next thoughts turned to, now how do I get down? And what’s next? The thoughts kept coming, but I tried to put a pause on that thinking. I wanted to take in the view.
Io lo so che non sono sola anche quando sono sola.
I know I’m not alone, even when I’m alone.
Over the past eight years, I must have written this line thousands of times. It was the way I closed every letter to my loved ones from prison. It meant to me that although none of my loved ones could hold my hand through imprisonment, they were with me in every other way possible. I repeated that line to myself throughout this Labor Day. For me, my experience was an experience shared with many people — family, friends and strangers — who believed in my innocence and who worked and advocated for it relentlessly. I was never alone. I will always be tremendously thankful for that.
I realized again on Labor Day that if my experience is going to have meaning beyond my own false imprisonment, it must be a catalyst for continued and increased public attention to the ways our criminal justice system can be improved to prevent injustices. The Italian Supreme Court recognized in its opinion that prosecutors and police detectives are not infallible. They can, as the Italian Supreme Court found in my case, make “glaring errors” and negligent “omissions.” They can fall prey to media pressure, putting speed above thorough analysis. They can, we know, wrongfully accuse, prosecute and imprison innocent people. The consequences can be staggering. People sentenced to life imprisonment, even death, have later been exonerated as a result of DNA evidence.
Throughout my own ordeal, I was sustained on hundreds of days and in countless ways by the resolve – and the hope, the kindness, the work – of others. At the end of my contemplation, I found my own resolve again. In the early days of November 2007, and for almost eight years more, I felt resolve to clear my name, but in tremendous need of help to do so. My name now cleared — by Italy’s highest court and directly as a result of tireless efforts on my behalf — my resolve turns outward. I am resolved to help others who have been wrongfully convicted to clear their names, and to help those who have finally been released from prison to re-adjust to their lives outside of four grey walls.
This coming Dec. 3, I will be speaking at Loyola University Chicago’s Sixth Annual Life After Innocence Luncheon. Like many other local and regional innocence groups, Loyola’s Life After Innocence program advocates for innocent people released from prison, helping them reenter society, clear their records and start their lives over. The luncheon will be my first public opportunity to direct the conversation away from my past, and towards our shared goal of ensuring that other innocents may be freed and, better yet, not accused in the first place. I very much look forward to turning that page.
Amanda Knox works as a writer and advocates on behalf of those wrongfully convicted. She is the author of Waiting to be Heard: A Memoir, which tells the story of her prosecution in Italy, one that drew international media attention, and her ultimate exoneration by the Italian Supreme Court.
Amanda Knox will be the featured speaker at Loyola University Chicago’s “Life After Innocence Luncheon” on Dec. 3. The noon luncheon will be held at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law, 25 E. Pearson St. Proceeds from ticket sales will help to support the university’s Life After Innocence program, which advocates for innocent people released from prison, helping them reenter society, clear their records and start their lives over. For more information, go to www.luc.edu/law/LAI.
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