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Amanda Knox: Sometimes I can't stop crying

By Holly Yan, CNN
May 8, 2013 -- Updated 1000 GMT (1800 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Knox says she's considering going back to Italy but fears returning to prison
  • An Italian court has overturned her acquittal, but Knox maintains her innocence
  • She slams prosecutors' claims that she is a sexual deviant
  • Knox says she is studying self-defense after death threats

(CNN) -- Even after she was cleared of murder, even after returning home to a scenic haven in Seattle, Amanda Knox is crippled with fear.

The case that kept her behind bars for four years and hurled her into global notoriety isn't over. At any point, the United States could extradite her back to Italy to face a retrial since her acquittal was overturned in March.

During one of her very first interviews as a free woman, Knox tells CNN's Chris Cuomo that her attempt at resuming a normal life has been punctuated by debilitating panic attacks.

Knox: 'I'm afraid to go back' to Italy

Admittedly nervous during the interview, she describes one such episode from the past weekend: "I sit in my hotel room and cry so loud until the security calls the room, because the person next door has heard me crying," Knox says, her voice cracking.

Appeals Court Judge Alessandro Nencini, center, reads out the verdict for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher in Florence, Italy, on Thursday, January 30, 2014. The appeals court upheld the convictions of U.S. student Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito for the 2007 murder of her British roommate. Knox was sentenced to 28 1/2 years in prison, raising the specter of a long legal battle over her extradition. Sollecito's sentence was 25 years. Appeals Court Judge Alessandro Nencini, center, reads out the verdict for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher in Florence, Italy, on Thursday, January 30, 2014. The appeals court upheld the convictions of U.S. student Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito for the 2007 murder of her British roommate. Knox was sentenced to 28 1/2 years in prison, raising the specter of a long legal battle over her extradition. Sollecito's sentence was 25 years.
The Knox-Sollecito retrial
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Photos: The Knox-Sollecito retrial Photos: The Knox-Sollecito retrial
Amanda Knox: 'I'm afraid to go back'
'I was not strapping on leather'
Knox: 'I feel bad for my younger self'
Amanda Knox: I still have panic attacks

As she tries to articulate her next thought, Knox suppresses more tears.

"It's really hard for me to talk to people about it. It's like as soon as I allow myself to cry, I can't stop."

The sweeping interview reveals fascinating new details of a story that has been widely reported -- but not in her words. She slams accusations from authorities that she's an apathetic sexual deviant whose behavior led to her roommate's gruesome death.

Was she convicted on a story based partly on a gender stereotype? Or is that just an excuse? The subtleties in her interview may uncover some answers.

Read an excerpt from Knox's book

Going back to Italy

Knox says she's afraid to return to Italy to face a new trial almost six years after her roommate's death.

But she's considering it.

"I don't know yet. It's a really complicated question," she tells Cuomo. I mean, I'm afraid to go back there. I don't want to go back into prison."

"I've been told that in Italy, people think it's arrogant of me to sit here in the United States and have a book come out and defend myself," says Knox, who reportedly was paid a $3.8 million advance for her memoir, "Waiting to be Heard."

"First of all, I find that incredibly unfair, because I have the right to defend myself. And no one can ask me to just shut up because it's convenient. But at the same time, I want to prove to them that I care about what's going on."

Knox has been criticized for what some perceived as apathy over the death of her study-abroad roommate, Meredith Kercher, in 2007. Kercher, a 21-year-old British exchange student, was found dead, seminaked with her throat slashed, in the Perugia villa she rented with Knox.

But Knox says she's been unfairly characterized as cold and aloof after Kercher's death.

"I find it incredible that despite an absolute lack of evidence that connects me to this murder, I am still being judged based upon unrealistic and unreasonable expectations about how a young woman would react to a horrible situation. No one knows how they would react to a horrible situation until it happens to them," she says.

"I definitely reacted to what happened to her. And I react to this day. I'm emotional to this day about what happened. But I'm also the type of person who, when there is pressure on me and expectation on me to react, to feel in front of people, I freeze. I would much rather suppress my emotion than have it be determined as insincere and affected."

Knox and her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were convicted of killing Kercher. Both were acquitted in 2011, but their acquittals were overturned in March.

"As I was going through all of this, when I cried, it was bad. When I didn't cry, it was bad. When I smiled, it was bad. When I didn't smile, it was bad," Knox says. " ... I have been paralyzed by this kind of scrutiny. And I feel like it's unfair."

Will Knox be extradited to Italy? Experts disagree on likelihood

Claims of sexual deviancy

At times, the depictions of Knox in court were as scandalous as plot lines in a made-for-TV movie.

They were calling me things like violent and whore and deviant. And it's all untrue.
Amanda Knox

"They were calling me things like violent and whore and deviant. And it's all untrue," Knox tells Cuomo.

Prosecutors theorized she was involved in some sort of erotic game gone horribly wrong that resulted in the death of her roommate.

Knox says such claims were "a bombardment of falsehood and fantasy."

"No one has ever claimed that I was ever taking part in deviant sexual activity. None of my roommates, none of my friends, none of the people who knew me there. This is simply coming out of the prosecution," she says. "I was not strapping on leather and bearing a whip. I have never done that. I have never taken part in an orgy. Ever."

She says there has been recent discussion "about how our society latches onto the idea of a violent, sexual woman, how sexuality becomes deviancy, becomes violent" and how "the connection between those things is so easily made in comparison to men."

"I was completely recharacterized as a human being based upon the fact that I was sexually active. And that turned into sexual deviancy. And it was unfair," Knox says. "And I was having to go into the courtroom when the jury and judge were already convinced of a certain idea of what kind of person I was. And there was nothing I could do to respond to it."

Opinion: What Knox can and can't tell us

Implicating an innocent man

Even though she was acquitted of the murder charge, Knox doesn't have a spotless record.

After she and Sollecito were detained for questioning in the killing, she allegedly confessed to being at her home when Kercher was killed and implicated Patrick Lumumba, the owner of a bar where she worked.

Lumumba was detained but was released after two weeks when his alibi was corroborated: He had spent the night of the murder talking to a customer in his pub in Perugia, police said. Lumumba later sued Knox for libel, winning 40,000 euros ($54,000) in damages.

Knox says her book gives readers insight into what she was thinking in the days and months after Kercher's death.

"I'm aware of the fact that people don't seem to get where I'm coming from when I named Patrick Lumumba, for instance. And I can't excuse it. But I can try to explain it. And that's the only -- the only thing I can do," Knox says.

Analysis: Knox case is complicated, confusing mess

Her life today

Despite the panic attacks, Knox is trying to get her life back to normal. She's back with a boyfriend whom she knew before she was in Italy. She's going to school and is making up lost time with her family.

But she still hasn't reached out to Meredith Kercher's family.

Why?

"I know that they think that I'm guilty," Knox tells Cuomo. "... I wish that I had gotten ahold of them much earlier, at the very beginning."

During the interview, Knox's hands appeared to show signs of injuries. She says she was taking self-defense training.

"I've received death threats since I've been home. And I don't ever want to be caught in a situation that Meredith was caught in where someone is able to overpower me because I just don't know what to do," Knox says.

"There are not normal people who are fixated on me. And I don't know what they're capable of. I don't."

Her desire, Knox says, is that within five years she will finally feel at ease.

"I hope that I will be definitively found innocent," she says. "I hope that I can reconcile myself with Patrick and Meredith's family."

She worries about a lifetime of answering questions from doubters.

"I really want this to be behind me. I need this. I don't know how long I can hold it together. I don't know how long I can defend myself."

Timeline: Kercher murder case

CNN's Richard Allen Greene contributed to this report.

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