Amanda Knox is the now 23-year-old American woman who, in December of 2009, was convicted in the sexual assault and murder of her roommate, 21-year-old Meredith Kercher, in the residence they shared with two Italian women in 2007. Knox and Kercher were both studying at Perugia’s University for Foreigners. In a trial that was covered widely by the international press, Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, to 25 years. But on Tuesday in an appeal court, independent, court-appointed experts from Rome University dismissed DNA evidence, found on a knife believed to be used in the murder, as unreliable, noting that “trace of Sollecito’s DNA on Kercher’s bra clip, the vital piece of evidence linking him to the murder scene, could have got there by contamination,” says the Guardian.
This turn in the case followed a “hefty setback” on Monday when Rudy Guede, an African immigrant who was convicted in the murder and jailed, said that Knox and Sollecito had committed the murder. Noting the “good news” about the “unreliable” forensic evidence, Time magazine asks if it’s possible that Knox might have Asperger’s Syndrome, as an explanation for “both her unusual social behavior”" and also her ”gullibility that triggered a false confession”?
“Knox and Sollecito would make faces, kiss each other, while there was the body of a friend in those conditions,” said homicide chief Monica Napoleoni….
Officers would later complain that Knox, after sitting for hours in the stiff waiting-room chairs, had started to do cartwheels and even splits. Convinced that she was psychotic, the guards begged her to stop, explaining that such behavior was “inappropriate.” And a detective complained when he saw Knox sitting on her boyfriend’s lap. “Inappropriate,” he said.
Time quotes both Valerie Gaus, a “psychologist who has worked with hundreds of autistic people,” and Rudy Simone, a woman who herself has Asperger’s — both of whom emphasize they can’t attempt a diagnosis of Knox as they have not met her — as saying that Knox’s unusual behaviors may have been a way to “regulate anxiety.” Finding herself questioned for a brutal murder in a foreign country, anxiety would certainly seem possible in Knox. Individuals with Asperger’s can also be prone to “gullibility” and naiveté; as Time says, “this makes people with Asperger’s particularly prone to false confessions both because they get easily overwhelmed by stress and because they don’t understand the intentions of the police.”
Other characteristics of Knox that Time suggests can be found in some people with Asperger’s include: an “apparent penchant for casual sex” — which some British newspapers accused her of – as a way someone lacking in social skills might be able to “connect”; an “utter lack of awareness of her own beauty”; and a strong “desire for justice,” seen in
how Knox would try to help strangers on the street and how she insisted on staying in Italy to help the police with the case, even after her other roommates had gotten attorneys and left the country.
Time isn’t suggesting that Knox having a Asperger’s could overturn her conviction, but that it could explain how she got herself charged with sexual assault and murder.
Of course, both Time and, before it, Rolling Stone, are engaging in “armchair diagnosis” and speculation based on the media’s coverage of Knox’s case. Psychologist Gaus does say that, should Knox be exonerated and seek some sort of diagnosis, “it could help her come to terms with what happened.” Certainly one hopes most of all that the truth in this case can be finally made clear, certainly for the sake of all parties involved, including the family of Meredith Kercher.
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Photo of Perugia’s University for Foreigners, where Amanda Knox and Meredith Kercher were studying in 2007, by Josh Friedman Luxury Travel.
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