What does Italy hope to gain by re-trying Amanda Knox?

And, were she found guilty again, would the United States extradite Amanda Knox?

As you’ve no doubt heard by now an Italian appellate has court overturned a lower court decision that acquitted Amanda Knox in the Perugia murder of her housemate Meredith Kercher. Two questions immediately present themselves: 1. If she’s found guilty, would the United States extradite her at Italy’s request? 2. Why won’t Italy let this go?

By way of addressing the first question, in response to a New York magazine article, a commenter named Soma writes:

Extradition treaties work both ways. The US recently extradited Al Qaeda terrorism suspects from Italy … would they want to jeopardise future extradition requests to Italy & the larger EU? I doubt it.

At Slate, Justin Peters writes:

More likely is that, if Knox is convicted again, Italy won’t even bother requesting her extradition. Doing so would cause a small but real international incident, something that both nations would prefer to avoid. The two countries will reach some sort of agreement, and Knox will never spend another day in an Italian jail.

In the same vein, MSN reports that it

…spoke with English and Italian legal consultant and attorney Alessandro Canali from Rome [who said that] extraditing Knox would run up against an insurmountable legal hurdle: It would be unconstitutional. … “The United States will never grant extradition to Italy because the conviction of Amanda would be in conflict with the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.…

Indeed, the Fifth Amendment’s “double jeopardy clause” states, “[N]or shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb,” … Italy may have different constitutional principles when it comes to double jeopardy, but Knox isn’t in Italy anymore, and she can rest assured that she won’t be forced to go there.

But, reports Gary J. Remal for the Boston Herald, “if anyone believes they know how Knox’s case will be resolved, [Paulo Barrozo, a Boston College international criminal law expert] believes they are likely mistaken.” If Ms. Knox were found guilty again

American officials would then have to decide whether to honor an extradition request that violates a constitutional protection against double jeopardy. In Italian law, based on Roman and Athenian law, double jeopardy protections only kick in after all prosecution appeals in an original case are exhausted.

 … “So maybe this will become the setting for double jeopardy to be decided” between Italy and the U.S., said. “But both countries are likely to want to make that move carefully since it could affect legal relations between the two for years or decades to come. They have extraditions all the time. They may not want this case to set a precedent.”

“The one certainty I have,” Barrozo told Remal, “is it will take a long time.”

He expects legal wrangling in Italy and in the U.S., if the conviction is restored, will last for as long as six years.

Returning to the New York magazine article, commenter Bradley writes that extradition treaty between the United States and Italy is (emphasis added — assuming he’s correct)

… a little less permissive than you sometimes find. Many countries negotiate provisions giving them the explicit discretion to refuse extradition of one of their own nationals. This treaty doesn’t say that, and it contains a provision suggesting the opposite.

Still, Bradley

…can think of a few reasons why the U.S. Justice Department, for practical and political reasons, might not consent to her re-trial in this case in which she was already acquitted. And relations with Italy on justice issues are a little frosty right now over that CIA hit or kidnapping or whatever it was we did over there. Doesn’t seem to me as though we owe the Italians any favors at the moment.

Bradley may be referring to Italy’s conviction of 23 Americans for CIA renditions in 2009. Peters at Slate reinforces his view:

I predict that, even if she is convicted in absentia, there’s no way that Knox will be extradited back to Italy to serve her sentence. Knox is a cause célèbre in the U.S., and her partisans will exert significant pressure on the government to deny any extradition request.

Whether or not Barrozo is correct and the United States does consent to extradite (from MSN again):

As to whether Italian prosecutors know that the U.S. Constitution gives them no chance of getting Knox back into prison, Canali says “I don’t think they’ve realized that yet.”

That’s as poor a reflection on Italy as reopening this farce of a case. One can’t help but think it’s just a last-ditch effort to save face. Along with the emotional wear and tear on Ms. Knox and her family, as well as the central tragedy of Ms. Kercher’s murder, we shouldn’t forget Ms. Knox’s then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, who was also convicted, cleared, and re-charged. As MSN reports:

Sollecito, an Italian, isn’t in the same boat and could find himself behind bars if he’s reconvicted.

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.

17 replies »

  1. Are we forgetting that she helped to put soneone else in jail at the vegining when she pointed her fingers at someone else and lied .. what was she tried to hide. My take she would have everyone belief that she is 100% INNOCENT…the truth is ..my take is that she is a master manipulator and she thought shewas having a great time in Italy until someone lost their life. Drugs are dangerous
    and nothing good ever comes out as a result of using them.

    • Agreed. Unfortunately Italian system has once again proved to be dwindling, but this doesn’t make it a justification either, it doesn’t change the fact that she is guilty, as well as Sollecito.

      • No, it shows how competent the Italian system is. A lower court acquitted a murderer (my opinion) and a superior court has found the lower court may have made a mistake. Quite logical in my opinion. The incompetent system is the U.S. system where the wealthy guilty get off and the poor innocent get convicted.

  2. The question: “Why won’t Italy let this go?” really surprised me. Isn’t it a good thing that Italy isn’t letting the horrid death of a young woman go? A poor girl was killed and if she had been my sister or daughter I wouldn’t want the justice system to stop until they had found all the people responsible for her death.

    As for all those people who refer to the Fifth Amendment’s “double jeopardy clause”, let’s not forget that we are talking about another country here. This crime did not happen in the States and therefore I don’t understand how our government’s laws can impose themselves on another country’s.

    This arrogant way of thinking has gotten the US in trouble in the past. Just because we are one of the most powerful countries in the world does not mean we have the right to impose our system and way of living on other countries.

    Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were found guilty of murder the first time around….using the Italian appeals system they were found innocent….whether they like it or not, in Italy you can be tried again and you can’t stop the system just because you got the result you wanted.

    • The issue isn’t that the US is imposing its law on Italy. Nowhere have I seen any American official telling Italy to change their laws – I haven’t even seen Italian law criticized in passing here (although it may have happened and I just missed it).

      The point is that we can’t legally inflict on our citizens that which is unconstitutional. If I’m not mistaken, this goes both ways. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Italy doesn’t have the death penalty. And I do not believe they would extradite an Italian citizen back to the US if that citizen faced the death penalty, right?

      Same thing.

      • Hi Samuel. I don’t really know if a case like the one you mentioned above has ever happened, so I can’t really give an answer.

        I do, though, think that the comparison is pretty extreme. Maybe Italy might have something to say over the death penalty, but I’m pretty positive they wouldn’t have anything to say about a life sentence in prison.

        If Amanda Knox is found guilty the third time around (the 1st time she was found guilty, the 2nd time innocent) do you really think it’s fair that she doesn’t serve a day in prison just because she was lucky enough to be an American citizen that has a constitution that says she can’t be convicted twice of the same crime?

        How many cases have there been in America where the wrong people were convicted of a crime they didn’t commit? How many times, instead, were there people that got off on a crime that they DID commit. I’m sure plenty of both. The difference is that those who find themselves in jail can later prove their innocence (and it has happened many times that people are set free) while those who get off just get off and don’t have to worry about it anymore.

        • You’re tapdancing. From a legal/constitutional standpoint, the two examples are precisely equal. Neither country would be willing to subject its citizens to extradition when doing so would subject said citizens to things that it deems unconstitutional. There are moral arguments to made about the death penalty, certainly, but there are also arguments to be made re: not allowing the authorities to keep retrying a suspect until they get the outcome they want.

        • I’m not tap dancing around anything. I just have a different opinion than yours.

          Yes, in Italy the death penalty is unconstitutional and in the US it’s not. But in the case you mentioned, the Italian citizen could still be punished with life in prison. Which is the punishment for murder in 17 states, where the death penalty is not allowed. There is some satisfaction in knowing that in some way that person will be punished.

          If Amanda Knox was found guilty, do you think it’s fair that she not serve any time? The question is not only a constitutional one, but a moral one. That’s what I’m really trying to get across and make people think about.

          In the end this whole discussion could be for nothing…..Amanda Knox could be found innocent and then there won’t be any moral or diplomatic issues to deal with.

          I also do not think there is a “witch hunt” for Amanda Knox. If there had been, her and Sollecito wouldn’t ever have been found innocent the second time around. The judicial system in Italy works differently from ours and I really don’t think they allow a person to be tried for the same crime twice just so the authorities can get the outcome they want. It’s more than likely that it’s because the judicial system is run by humans that can make mistakes; therefore it is imperfect and errors can happen.

        • You may not like the term “tapdancing,” but this isn’t as simple as we have differing opinions. You’re attempting to conflate multiple things in ways that confuse the issue. Primarily, you’re conflating moral controversy with constitutional/legal black letter law. Is the death penalty more unjust than a government being allowed to retry a defendant repeatedly until they find a jury to convict? That’s a potentially interesting argument we could have.

          However, the point here is far simpler. You accused the US of attempting to inflict its system on Italy. I pointed out that, as I understand the situation, Italy does the same thing.

          The other issue is that you’ve come very close to assuming that Knox is guilty. There is ample evidence that questions this assumption. I’m all in favor of guilty people being convicted and punished for their crimes, but the US assumption is that the risk of innocent people going to prison (or being executed, something I know you care about) is amplified when suspects are subject to double jeopardy.

  3. Beyond anything else, the case reminds me of how capricious justice systems can be. Read the below from Rolling Stone in 2011 and tell me if the only reason Ms. Knox was jailed and her family’s resources depleted was because she was easy to reel in:

    As soon as Kercher’s corpse was discovered, the two Italian roommates called their lawyers. Kercher’s British friends were even more cautious: Most of them fled the country, returning to the U.K. Edda asked Knox to fly home, or visit her cousin in Germany, but Knox refused. She wanted to see Kercher’s family when they arrived in Perugia. She also wanted to help investigators find the killer. Today her mother’s greatest regret is that she listened to her daughter. “Had I known that the British girls were out of there, had I known that the first thing her roommates did was lawyer up — had I known all of that? Absolutely, I would’ve made her come home,” says Edda. “I would have had my cousin on the first plane out of Germany to yank her out of there.”


  4. I would not even have referenced that Slate article. The person who wrote it knows absolutely nothing about how extradition works. Let me teach you a trick on how to determine if the person speaking on this topic knows what they are talking about; if they mention double jeopardy they are clueless and should be ignore. The answer to the extradition question is very easy. Amanda Knox will be extradited.

    As to the first question of why is Italy doing this the answer is also simple. Because Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito participated in the murder of Meredith Kercher and the justice requires it. The reporting on this trial has been horrendous which is the only reason low-information people believe Knox is innocent. People who have taken the time to read the material know that Amanda Knox is guilty

    http://themurderofmeredithkercher.com/ is a site that has all the available documents including most of the trial testimony. There is no opinion just the transcripts in Italian, in English, and then summarized. There is no doubt that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are guilty. The only question is why does the media misrepresent so much of the evidence?