It also raises the possibility that if Knox is found guilty and that verdict is upheld by Italy’s Supreme Court, Knox could eventually face a request to extradite her and put her back in prison.
An extradition request would likely turn on whether being prosecuted again after being exonerated constitutes double jeopardy.
Knox and her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were convicted in 2009 after a lengthy and controversial trial for the murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher in 2007. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison while Sollecito got 25.
Knox was acquitted by an appeals court that blasted the prosecution’s handling of critical DNA evidence and the case in general in 2011, released from prison, and returned to the United States, where she has been attending college and writing a tell-all book that will be released by HarperCollins this April. The publishers might want to hold the presses and make room for an epilogue
Knox had hoped yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling would uphold her innocence and put an end to her six year ordeal. Instead she was “shocked” when the court ordered the appeals court to retry the case.
Knox, 25, now faces years of legal maneuvering and hearings starting when the case is expected to go back to trial early next year.
Knox, who has already spent four years in an Italian prison, does not intend to return to Italy for the proceedings, possibly putting her lawyers at a disadvantage. She won’t be able to testify on her own behalf and she won’t be able to take advantage of Italy’s right of “spontaneous declarations” in which the defendant can stand and make a statement to defend herself against particular testimony.
Her absence at the new trial could prompt the appellate court to declare her in contempt of court, but that carries no additional penalties.
The outcome of the retrial is certain to be appealed to the Supreme Court by whichever side loses.
If Knox is again convicted and the verdict is upheld by the Supreme Court, Italy would be expected to seek her extradition in order to put her back in prison.
“We’ve got a [extradition] treaty,” said Bruce Zagaris, a Washington-based attorney who specializes in extradition cases. “The Senate has already ratified that treaty and decided that Italy is a country with which we ought to have a treaty. They wouldn’t have ratified if they didn’t think the Italian process was fair and due process was sufficient.”
“She can try to fight extradition, but it will be an uphill battle,” Zagaris said.
Countries can and do deny extradition requests for many reasons: if the accused will be subject to double jeopardy; if extradition is requested for political or military offenses; if the would-be extraditee is powerful and famous. In the American legal world being retried for the same crime sounds like “double jeopardy,” a principle in the U.S. judicial system and enshrined in the Constitution that outlaws being tried twice for the same crime.
American unease with double jeopardy could give Knox a “fighting chance” to appeal any extradition in a U.S. court, said Christopher L. Blakesley, a professor of international law University of Nevada Las Vegas.
“There’s room to fight extradition,” Blakesley said, “and double jeopardy is the spot to fight on?. In the treaty, we functionally accept their system of justice, but it’s up to a magistrate to decide whether” the double jeopardy clause of the Constitution was violated and if that trumps the treaty.
Asked about Knox’s prospects for extradition, a State Department spokesman said “we never talk about extradition from the podium,” during the daily briefing for reporters, and said the U.S. would wait for the final explanation from the Italian Supreme Court before commenting.
Article X of the current U.S.-Italy extradition treaty states that the requesting nation must present a case summary that provides “a reasonable basis to believe that the person sought committed the offense for which extradition is requested.” The United States will probably use this as grounds for blocking Knox’s extradition. They might cite double jeopardy, too, but that’s a trickier argument to win under the current treaty.
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.
Extradition attempts by Italy
- An Italian judge dropped the case against the crewmembers of a Marine jet that severed a ski gondola cable in 1998 in the Alps, sending 20 people plummeting to their deaths. Judge Carlo Ancona ruled that Italian courts lacked jurisdiction in the case. Italian prosecutor Francantonio Granero had pushed for manslaughter charges against the four-man crew.
- The United States rejected in 2007 a request by Italy to extradite CIA agents for a criminal trial over U.S. renditions of terror suspects. A Milan judge ordered 26 Americans thought to be CIA agents to stand trial for kidnapping a Muslim cleric suspected of terrorism and then flying him to Egypt.
- In June 2011, Brazil refused an Italian request to extradite convicted killer Cesare Battisti, who was convicted of four murders during a period of left-wing violence in 1970s and escaped from an Italian jail in 1981.
- Supreme Court of Italy: Amanda Knox to be retried for Meredith Kercher murder (theitalianist.com)
- Italy Extradition of Amanda Knox Seen as Difficult – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Experts disagree over extradition for Amanda Knox (cnn.com)
- Does the Constitution protect Amanda Knox from a murder retrial? (constitutioncenter.org)