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Does Amanda Knox Have Asperger’s?

Does Amanda Knox Have Asperger’s?

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”?

Time draws on a Rolling Stone description of Knox’s behavior after her arrest to suggest that she might be on the autism spectrum:

“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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9:53PM PDT on Oct 16, 2011

For those still in doubt about Amanda's innocence, here's the opinion of a former law enforcement officer:

10:13PM PDT on Oct 14, 2011

"If she were bullied into a confession, she wouldn't be the first who was."

Well said. In fact, that was exactly what happened in a case involving four Irish hippies who were falsely accused of bombing a pub in Lower London. They were mentally and physically abused throughout their interrogations until they would have signed anything to make it stop. By the time their convictions were overturned, they had served fifteen years in the British prison system.

It almost happened to me once, too. Cops are very clever at co-ercing potential suspects. Fortunately, I wasn't being accused of anything as serious as rape or murder, though the charges they threatened were about as scary as any I'd ever want to be faced with. I saw the real stalker a month later, but didn't report him because I was too afraid of facing those cops again. That kind of encounter can leave a lasting impression. In fact, I'm still having nightmares about it...

10:03PM PDT on Oct 14, 2011

"Hmmmm! We may never know what happened here, but Asperger's should not play into the defense!"

It shouldn't be used as a tool for conviction, either. Mental illness never should, as it is a blatant violation of our constitutional rights.

9:51PM PDT on Oct 14, 2011

"If she had Asperger's (It is a mild form of Autism that 3 of my children have) it would have been known long before college. It's not something that appears in adulthood, or can go unknown through their whole childhood."

Actually, mental diagnoses are much harder to come up with than people think. They could have noticed her bizarre behaviour without understanding what was causing it... or she may have been subject to certain "tests" that her family kept in the closet... because let's face it, mental illness isn't widely accepted in our society, although it might have been better if the Italian cops had known about Amanda's disorder and understood the appropriate response... or maybe not. I'm always reluctant to admit that I have a mental illness, especially when dealing with the police, since mental illnesses are often blamed for the majority of crimes including rape and murder, and the last thing I want is to give someone more ammo to use against me when I've just been falsely accused...

2:11PM PDT on Jul 9, 2011

I have always believed that Amanda is Not Guilty of this crime. You just don't go off to college in a foreign country to commit a murder! Autism just doesn't appear out of the woodwork! She deserves a Fair Trial, and she hasn't had that yet.

3:47PM PDT on Jul 5, 2011

I think this is more media jumping to their own conclusions.

6:22AM PDT on Jul 5, 2011

When you know that the media is there play to it!!!

7:19AM PDT on Jul 4, 2011

If she had Asperger's (It is a mild form of Autism that 3 of my children have) it would have been known long before college. It's not something that appears in adulthood, or can go unknown through their whole childhood.

6:38AM PDT on Jul 4, 2011

There is a name for everything anymore! How did people survive 50 years ago wihout all the medications and diseases people have that explain why they act as they do.

11:01PM PDT on Jul 3, 2011

Who cares?

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches and writes about ancient Greek and Latin and is Online Advocacy and Marketing... more
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