On the morning of November 2nd, 2007, 21-year-old British exchange student Meredith Kercher was found dead on the floor in the house she had been sharing with three other women in Perugia, Italy. Kercher's throat had been slit; she was lying in a pool of blood and covered with a duvet. One of her roommates, 20-year-old Seattle native and fellow study-abroad student Amanda Knox, notified the authorities after allegedly arriving home from sleeping at her new boyfriend's house. She'd discovered the front door open, blood on the bathroom floor, and unknown feces in the toilet. (Kercher's other two roommates, both Italian, were away at the time, and Kercher was not responding to knocks on her locked bedroom door.)
As the next few days played out, Italian authorities would become more and more convinced that Knox and her then-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, had somehow been involved in Kercher's murder. Their assumptions had to do with Knox's unusual behavior, which authorities deemed too unsavory for a girl mourning her roommate's untimely death: They didn't like the way she and Sollecito kissed while the police investigated the hilltop house, and they thought it was strange that Knox did cartwheels and stretching exercises in the police station. Their suspicions – which local and international media unabashedly played up – eventually led to Knox's and Sollecito's arrest, trial, and imprisonment, all of which is captured in the new Netflix documentary, Amanda Knox.
Filmed over the course of five years and directed and produced by Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn, Amanda Knox does not so much set out to prove or disprove Knox's innocence as it does point out the ways the case itself became unfairly sensationalized by a scoop-hungry media and a witch-hunting prosecution. Comprising interviews with Knox and Sollecito, plus prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, former Daily Mail journalist Nick Pisa and a smattering of others, the documentary goes the distance to illustrate how the media and Italian law enforcement fed into each other to create a bizarre — and very likely false — story behind Kercher's murder (a "sex game gone wrong," they decided at the time). Here, seven WTF-worthy moments in Netflix's Amanda Knox.
Knox describes being physically abused while questioned by the Italian police
If you read Knox's 2015 memoir, Waiting to Be Heard, then you may already be familiar with how the now-29-year-old was initially questioned by the Perugian police. Knox details the interrogation once again in the documentary, noting how investigators were unsatisfied with her account that she'd been at Sollecito's house the night of Kercher's murder. They were convinced that a text message to Knox's boss, Patrick Lumumba, containing the American slang "See you later," meant that she had made an actual appointment to see him later that night. Which, as they thought, didn't line up with her alibi. "At a certain point, a police officer slapped me behind the head and was like 'Remember!' and slapped me again," Knox says into the camera.
After hours of no food, no sleep, no bathroom breaks and more intense interrogation, Knox claims she broke down and began to question her own memory of that night, leading her to falsely accuse Lumumba, who owned an area bar called Le Chic.
'Daily Mail' journalist Nick Pisa likens the thrill of getting a front-page story to having sex
"A murder always gets people going. Bit of intrigue, big of mystery, a whodunit…What more do you want in a story?" says Pisa with a shrug and a grin. He describes being the first journalist to get details of Kercher's autopsy, which revealed little cuts and "nicks" from a knife to her neck, "almost as if someone had been taunting or torturing her." That's when the prosecution and police, he said, began to call the crime a "sex game gone wrong," which he immediately wrote up and "managed to get out to the British press before anyone else."
"To see your name on the front page with a great story that everyone's talking about… it's just like this fantastic buzz," he says. "It's like having sex or something."
Newspapers used innocent photos of Knox and Sollecito to make them appear more sinister
In his interviews, Pisa also describes the way journalists at the time would search the Internet for any extra information they could find about Knox and Sollecito. Not only did they dig up Knox's MySpace nickname "Foxy Knoxy" and spin it to make her appear sex-obsessed and dangerous, but they also found a photo of Knox jokingly posing with a machine gun and one of Sollecito dressed up like a mummy holding a meat cleaver. Both photos, obviously placed out of context, would appear side by side in newspapers, making them look like a couple of young kids who found murder to be humorous.
Pisa refuses to say how the contents of Knox's diary was leaked to the press while she was in prison
That's how the public learned that Knox had been told she had HIV (she didn't) in order to get a list of every man she'd ever had sex with (just seven). "But how did the press get a hold of her diary?" asks a disembodied voice to Pisa, who tells the story. He smiles and apologetically says that a good journalist never reveals a source.
Mignini doesn't seem to understand how police questioning works
The prosecutor recounts asking Knox why she originally pointed the finger at Lumumba while being questioned by police. In her response, which you can hear in the film, she tells Mignini that she had been kept at the station for long hours in the company of police who demanded she "tell the truth." She was so stressed, exhausted and hysterical that she began to bend to their will and agree that Lumumba had somehow been involved in Meredith's death. But the prosecutor doesn’t appear to understand the nuance of the situation – he just assumes that Knox is a person who keeps "going between dream and reality" and "has a very unusual way of reasoning."
What's more, when the clear lack of DNA evidence exonerates Knox and Sollecito, Mignini won't hear of it. "I have to remind you that her behavior was completely inexplicable. Totally irrational." To Mignini, that and the fact that Knox was "a very uninhibited girl" appears to be enough to convict them.
Journalists devoted less time to covering Rudy Guede's case because he wasn't as interesting
Throughout Knox and Sollecito's trials, an area man named Rudy Guede was found to have been in Kercher's room the night of her murder. Guede was later convicted of murder and sexual assault and sentenced to 30 years in prison. (An appeal later reduced that to 16 years.) Pisa, in his interview, admits to covering Knox's case much more extensively than Rudy's, simply because "there was no interest in him."
Mignini describes how he enjoyed his "prophet"-like status in Perugia
"Normally, people say that 'Nobody is a prophet in his own country,'" says the prosecutor to the camera, in a particularly icky moment. "But that's not what I experienced." After Knox and Sollecito's 2009 guilty verdict and sentencing, Mignini describes being regularly approached by strangers, who would ask to shake his hand. "They would congratulate me. It gives me satisfaction."
Maybe Mignini legitimately loves his country and his city of Perugia, and loves the idea of keeping his beloved hometown out of danger. But based on what we see and hear in the documentary, the man clearly got boost of confidence from putting away a young girl who, at the end of the day, he just didn't like the look of. Did the media and prosecution twist an innocent girl's life into salacious story for their own benefit? You decide.
Netflix's 'Amanda Knox' sets the record straight on infamous 2007 murder. Watch here.