Amanda Knox makes a comment during a news conference held at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport near Seattle, Washington on October 4, 2011. Knox arrived in the United States after an Italian appeals court threw out her conviction in the sexual assault and fatal stabbing of her British roommate. File Photo by Jim Bryant/UPI | License Photo
June 15 (UPI) -- Amanda Knox, a U.S. citizen, has returned to Italy to tell her story for the first time since she was released from prison in 2011 and acquitted of murder.
Knox and her ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, spent nearly four years in prison after initial conviction for the murder of Knox's British roommate, Meredith Kercher, a fellow exchange student, who shared her home in Perugia, Italy, in 2007. They were exonerated by Italy's highest court in 2015.
She was 20 at the time of the murder and is now age 31.
Knox returned to Italy to take part in a "Trial by Media" debate at the Criminal Justice festival in Modena.
"My innocence didn't save me because the media created a story . . . and the people liked that story," she told a crowd at the festival Saturday. "I was the dirty man-eater, Foxy Knoxy."
"I wasn't innocent until proven guilty, I was a wise, drugged up whore - - it was unfounded but it awoke people's imagination," she added. "These sensational and defamatory images also entered the courtroom. The investigation was contaminated and the jury corrupted. It was impossible for me to have a fair trial."
Knox was originally sentenced in 2009 to 26 years in prison on charges of slander, sexual assault and murder related to her roommate's death, along with Sollecito, who was sentenced to 25 years on charges of murder and sexual assault.
An appeals court cleared them in 2011 after an independent forensic expert found much of the DNA evidence used to convict them unreliable, and Knox returned to the United States.
The pair were convicted again in 2014 after an appeals court found that Rudy Guede, who was serving time for the murder, couldn't have acted alone, but Italy's highest court acquitted and exonerated them in 2015, ruling that there were "stunning flaws" in the investigation.
Guede was "the robber" who "entered the house and raped and killed" her housemate Meredith, Knox said Saturday.
"His DNA was left and then he escaped the country," Knox said. "He was tried and convicted. But despite all the attention [on the case] hardly anyone heard the name, Rudy Guede, because all of the focus was on me."
Still, three of the years Knox spent in prison were related to a defamation charge in connection with the murder case. Knox wrongly accused Patrick Lumumba, a bar owner, of the crime. Lumumba spent two weeks in jail before he was released as someone stepped forward with an alibi for him.
On Saturday, Knox said she made the allegation against Lumumba under police coercion and retracted the allegation hours after making it, but police ignored her.
Carlo Pacelli, an attorney who represented Lumumba, said it was "shameful" that Knox never apologized to him for accusing him even though "she knew he was innocent," and his client never received any compensation over the defamation.
Knox had landed Thursday at Linate Airport in Milan and had shunned reporters until Saturday, when she broke down in tears at the Criminal Justice festival.
She told the crowd she was afraid "that new accusations will be directed against me for telling my truth."
"I know that despite my acquittal I remain a controversial figure for the public opinion, especially in Italy," she added. "I know that many people think I am bad, that I don't belong here. It shows how a false narrative can be powerful and undermine justice, especially when amplified by the media."
Guido Sola, a lawyer with the Italy Innocence Project, the event organizer, said she was invited because she was "an icon of trial by media."