- Erie County Bar Association’s annual Law Day luncheon is May 10 at Bayfront Convention Center
- Keynote speaker is Amanda Knox, a Seattle author who made international headlines when she was convicted and finally acquitted in a murder case in Italy that started in 2007
- Bar Association will also honor local lawyers, community members at event
Most Americans have a fundamental grasp of the legal system in the United States, particularly its constitutional protections.
But the legal systems in other countries operate under their own set of rules.
Amanda Knox’s harrowing legal ordeal has put her in the compelling position of knowing the difference.
Knox, who was famously convicted and finally exonerated in a 2007 murder case in Italy and has gone on to become a journalist and best-selling author, is the keynote speaker at the Erie County Bar Association’s annual Law Day luncheon on May 10 at noon at the Bayfront Convention Center. The association said it is taking reservations through Monday.
The national Law Day theme for 2022 is “Toward a More Perfect Union: The Constitution in Times of Change,” and Knox can speak to the importance of the constitutional protections in the United States, said Erie lawyer Craig Murphey. He chairs the Erie County Bar Association’s Law Day committee, which recommended Knox as a speaker.
“We thought she would have an interesting perspective on American constitutional rights as compared to Italy,” Murphey said.
Knox, 34, of Seattle, spent nearly four years in an Italian prison and eight years on trial for a murder that Italy’s highest court ultimately found she did not commit. The court in 2015 annulled the convictions of Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, acquitting them both of murder charges.
Another speaking engagement:Amanda Knox visits Hutchinson Community College to speak about wrongful conviction
While Knox was a University of Washington student studying abroad, she and Sollecito were initially charged in the slaying of Knox’s roommate, 21-year-old British exchange student Meredith Kercher, on Nov. 1, 2007, in Perugia, a university town in central Italy. Knox and Sollecito were convicted in 2009, and were first acquitted in 2011 by an appeals court, which cited a lack of evidence.
The two were convicted again in 2014, and the appeal process ended with Italy’s highest court ruling in favor of Knox and Sollecito in 2015. Unlike in the United States, the Italian justice system has no protections against double jeopardy.
An Ivorian immigrant, Rudy Guede, was the only person ultimately convicted of killing Kercher. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison and was released in November. Guede has denied killing Kercher.
In 2019, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, ordered Italy to pay Knox $20,000 in financial damages for the police’s failure to provide her legal assistance and an independent interpreter during the night she was questioned following Kercher’s murder.
Since her exoneration, Knox has made a career as an author, podcast host, journalist and speaker on such issues as wrongful convictions and public shamings. Her best-selling memoir, “Waiting to Be Heard,” was published in 2013. She and her husband, Christopher Robinson, a novelist, host the podcast Labyrinths, in which they “delve into stories of getting lost and found again.”
To make reservations for the May 10 Law Day event, go to eriebar.com/events/ecba-events/1752-law-day-2022. The Erie County Bar Association can be reached at 814-459-3111.
Lawyers, others honored
At its Law Day luncheon on May 10, the Erie County Bar Association will honor lawyers and members of the community with its annual awards. The association released the names of the honorees in advance. They are:
- Chancellor of the Bar Award — Erie lawyer Robert G. Dwyer. The award recognizes an Erie County Bar Association member who was nominated by his or her peers for significant contributions with respect to their practice, attitude toward the court and fellow lawyers, and participation in civic affairs and community life, according to the association.
- Pro Bono Award — Erie lawyer Robert C. LeSuer. The award honors the volunteer efforts of an Erie County Bar Association member who has assisted with the delivery of civil legal services to the poor.
- Liberty Bell Award — Lori Dolan, immediate past president of the Erie chapter of the League of Women Voters. She has also been the league’s president, vice president and secretary and has worked on on numerous league committees. The Liberty Bell Award recognizes a local non-lawyer for community service that has strengthened the American system of freedom under law.
- Diversity & Inclusion Community Award — Tywonn T. Taylor is the first recipient of the award. He is the director of programming for Mercyhurst University at the Booker T. Washington Center and is the founder of Careers and Dreams, an organization that supports and provides opportunities to inner-city youth.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.