“Angel Faced Killer” or Innocent Bystander? Analysis of Amanda Knox’s Interview With Diane Sawyer 1

Case Summary

Amanda Knox is the American woman tried for the murder of Meredith Kercher in Italy, along with co-defendants Raffaele Sollecito and Rudy Guede. The latter was convicted of the sexual assault and the murder in a separate trial. Knox and her boyfriend (Sollecito) were tried together, found guilty, and spent almost four years in prison before being acquitted at a second trial in October 2011.

She returned to the US while prosecutors appealed their case to the Italian Supreme Court. A third trial was ordered. Knox remained in the United States during these proceedings, which began in September 2013 and concluded in late January 2014. Authorities again found her guilty and sentenced Knox to 28 years in prison.

Analysis

The key requirement for accurately interpreting the words and gestures of others is a baseline. All verbal and nonverbal messages do not necessarily mean the same thing. To be accurate, one must observe the other party long enough to create the “baseline” of their normal mannerisms. Any subsequent anomaly displayed would then warrant attention.

That said, certain gestures and speech patterns can be seen as “Red Flags” and categorized as consistent with truthful behavior or consistent with deceptive behavior. (Note: It would also be safe to use the phrases indicative of or suggestive of).

In this video, Knox displays a wide range of emotions and behaviors. She provides many answers and emotions consistent with a truthful person. Her eyes maintain a slow blink rate throughout the interview, generally indicative of truthful behavior. Additionally, her posture and arm/hand gestures often appear relaxed, indicating a lack of stress – suggestive of truthfulness. In several instances, she seems genuinely outraged.

However, there are also 11 “Red Flags” indicating possible deception. This timeline shows the precise locations of these anomalies and explains their possible relevance.

00:13 – Asymmetric smirk in response to Sawyer’s first question. See 13 Ways a Liar Can Say “No,” But Mean “Yes”

00:16 — “No” with smirk. See 13 Ways a Liar Can Say “No,” But Mean “Yes”

00:18-00:20 — Answers “No” but nods yes.

00:24 – Swallows before answering a threatening question. See When to Watch the Throat For Signs of Deception

00:27-00:33 – Multiple denials to a single question. See 13 Ways a Liar Can Say “No,” But Mean “Yes”

00:53-00:58 – Displays misdirected anger at the police for doing their job. “They knew what they were doing and that’s unforgiveable to me” (paraphrased).

01:05-01:20 – Provides a weak denial regarding her confession, led by the word “Well,…” In this context, “well” is considered an Explainer, that is, an expression providing a reason or justification for an action, thought, or attitude. Explainers reveal a causal state in the mind of the speaker. Other Explainers include because, since, as, in order to, therefore, etc. The key take-away for Explainers is that they are frequently used as rationalization cues.

Note also she claimed the police “acted like my answers were wrong” and told Knox she “had to remember correctly.” Curiously, she displayed very little outrage against the police for these alleged acts although she appeared genuinely angry just moments earlier.

03:17-03:37 – “I wasn’t providing a lot of the detail…” In this context, the phrase “a lot” is known as a Qualifier or Hedge. This is a word or phrase that reduces the force of an assertion by allowing for exceptions or avoiding commitments. Note the continued lack of outrage against the police, whom she just claimed provided the bulk of her statement.

Also curious is her lack of eye contact. Her eyes are focused downward. Another possible indicator of deception is the ambiguity of her closing phrase — “It was all like that.”

03:37-03:42 – “And I signed it (confession)” with downward eyes. She continued to avoid  eye contact until she asserted “…because I was incredibly vulnerable at that time.” Note the use of because as an Explainer.

4:39-4:42 – Opens with “I can try to explain..” and ends with “That’s all I can do.’” The word “can” indicates the speaker (Knox) knew she had a choice (i.e., she can explain or she can choose not to). In contrast, a statement such as “I will” would have indicated both commitment and action.

4:43-4:58 – Knox expressed sorrow for falsely accusing Patrick and then rationalized it with “…BUT (pause), I was demolished…” The word “but” is known as a Retractor. This is a word that partially or totally negates the immediately preceding statement. Other Retractors include however, although, yet, & nevertheless.

Also note the imbalance of emphasis within her statement. Knox devoted just five seconds to her falsely accused colleague and then took ten seconds justifying why she accused him.

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