Criminal justice

Amanda Knox explores how women’s gender might lead to false confessions

Amanda Knox speaks to the media during a brief press conference in front of her parents' home March 27, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Amanda Knox served almost four years in an Italian prison after being convicted for the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher — a case that became one of the most widely publicized murder trials in history. Knox was acquitted by an Italian court in 2015, vindicating her long-standing claims that she had been manipulated and coerced by aggressive interrogators into implicating herself for the crime.

Since her release from prison, Knox has become an advocate for the wrongly convicted. In a recent essay for Broadly, she questions the role that gender plays in compelling women to confess to crimes they did not commit.

Because relatively few women are implicated for violent crimes, there is little research exploring rates of false confessions among women. But Knox cites a number of studies suggesting that women are conditioned to be cooperative — while men are conditioned to be influential — and that women are more susceptible to coercion and threats. “This finds its most damning realization in the interrogation room, a situation designed to amplify the absolute control and authority of investigators — an experience I know only too well,” Knox writes.

Knox also refers to statistics demonstrating that 92 percent of victims of false memory syndrome, a condition that causes people to believe in traumatic events that did not happen, are female. One study has shown that false memories can be implanted — through psychotherapy — and so Knox argues that suggestible women “stand little chance in the face of aggressive police techniques.”

“For now, there is no standard understanding of the role that gender plays in condemning the innocent to the punishments of the guilty,” Knox adds. “As a result of that lack of consideration, women continue to suffer.”

Read the full essay at Broadly.

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