MODENA, Italy -- In her first return to Italy since being freed from prison in 2011, Amanda Knox gave a tearful 45-minute speech on Saturday in which she defended her version of what happened the night her roommate Meredith Kercher was killed and criticized the media for their coverage.
"I was innocent. But the rest of the world had decided I was guilty," Knox said at a convention on wrongful convictions and miscarriages of justice in the city of Modena organized by the Italian lawyers' association.
"My innocence did not save me," Knox told the audience in Italian as her eyes filled with tears. Her mother and fiancee, Christopher Robinson, were in the auditorium, along with dozens of journalists and video cameras.
The 31-year-old said it was "impossible" for her to receive a fair trial in Italy, finding fault with both investigators and media coverage that turned her into a "monster" and profited from salacious stories about sex games and orgies.
In the narrative crafted by the media, she had been a "psychopathic, dirty, drug-addicted whore," Knox said.
Knox, who lives in Seattle, said she still faces harassment and mockery years after her legal saga ended.
She captured attention more than a decade ago as a U.S. student living on the outskirts of the mediaeval Italian town of Perugia. It was there that her roommate, British exchange student Kercher, was raped and found dead with her throat slit on Nov. 1, 2007.
Knox was arrested with her then-Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito. She spent four years in an Italian prison for the crime. She returned to the U.S. when an appeals court overturned both of their sentences in 2011. She was definitively cleared in 2015, ending a legal battle conducted in the glare of a global media frenzy.
In the run-up to the trip, Knox said many people thought she was crazy for going back to Italy: "I was told it's not safe, that I'm going to be attacked in the streets, that I could be sent back to jail."
Knox said she agreed to speak in Modena, located not far from Bologna, because she was invited and because the cause was close to her heart. She was not paid for her speech.
Only one person -- Rudy Guede, an Ivory Coast-born drug dealer -- was handed a definitive guilty verdict in Kercher's killing, in 2010. Yet judges said he did not act alone, leaving open the question of who his accomplices were.
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