Amanda Knox will not be extradited to Italy
Amanda Knox will be extradited to Italy at about the same time that Elvis — the real Elvis — makes his return to Graceland. Ain’t gonna happen. Not any time soon at least.
How can I be so certain?
Well, first you need a little background.
As you likely know, Amanda Knox, dubbed early by the press as “Foxy Knoxy,” was once upon a time, a long, long time ago, in a land far, far away as an American exchange student. In Perugia, Italy, to be precise. She met a young, handsome Italian engineering student, Raffaele Sollecito, and fell — if not exactly deeply in love, then in at least in deep “like” — but, sadly, that’s where the fairy tale ended.
Knox had a British roommate, Meredith Kercher, who was brutally murdered in the small home she shared with Knox and two Italian women. Knox and Kercher had only lived together for a short while before the murder. Knox and Sollecito were immediately suspected of the killing notwithstanding that the facts — and importantly the physical evidence — just didn’t add up. Nonetheless, she and Sollecito were tried with much international fanfare and in 2009 were convicted of the crime.
Amanda and Raffaele spent the next four years in Italian prisons. Then, following an appeal and a retrial, both were acquitted of the crime. At last set free, Amanda hied quickly back to home and hearth in Seattle, where she tried to resume some semblance of a normal life.
But that was to be short-lived. As it turns out, under the Italian system of justice, “not guilty” doesn’t mean quite the same thing to which Americans are accustomed.
Before going on, there is a little thing known as double jeopardy we must discuss. In essence, double jeopardy means when one is accused of a crime, the prosecution gets a single swing at the pinata of conviction. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides:
(N)or shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.”
The double jeopardy clause encompasses four distinct prohibitions: subsequent prosecution after acquittal, subsequent prosecution after conviction, subsequent prosecution after certain mistrials and multiple punishment in the same indictment. Jeopardy “attaches” when the jury is empaneled, the first witness is sworn or a plea is accepted.
Instead of what we’re used to in this country, even though the prosecution “whiffed” in the Knox appeal, under Italian law, the people got yet another swing at the judicial pinata and Knox was tried yet again, this time in absentia. Despite the predictions of most legal pundits and observers, Knox was “re-convicted” of the crime.
But this time, something was different. Rather than being led off to some dingy cell, Amanda Knox was snugly back on terra firma in the good ol’ US of A and said that she would never go willingly back to Italy. Who could blame her?
So where, exactly, does that leave things?
Well, if Amanda Knox has respectfully declined to present herself to Italian legal authorities to serve out another 20-plus years for a crime it seems clear she did not commit, then the only way the Italian legal system is going to claw her back to Italy is via extradition.
This deserves just a quick moment of further pondering. What, exactly, does “extradition” mean?
It may be defined as the official process whereby one country transfers a suspected or convicted criminal to another country. Between countries, extradition is normally regulated by treaties. So if Amanda Knox is going to be returned to Italy, the U.S. government will have to cooperate pursuant to an extradition treaty with Italy.
And that’s where, on the one hand things get a little tight, and Amanda Knox (although certainly not celebrating the horrible death of Meredith Kercher) can likely blow up the party balloons.
You see, the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Italy contains a provision that attempts to protect against double jeopardy. Although it’s not completely clear whether that provision would bar extradition in Knox’s case, I’m betting that it does. Knox’s lawyers will argue that Amanda Knox has been there and done that and, once acquitted, the retrial violated her rights.
The technical legal question is whether Knox was acquitted, as U.S. courts would define the term or whether the case was merely reversed and still open for further appeal. And that’s where the lawyers will earn their scratch.
Will Amanda Knox be extradited to Italy to serve out time for a crime she clearly didn’t commit? Not if Uncle Sam has anything to say about it — which it most certainly does — and not until Elvis reappears in Graceland in a resplendent suit of lights.
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley with the law firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddision, Tharp and Weinberg LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody, divorce and civil litigation. He may be heard on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) and seen on ECOTV 18 as host of “Community Focus.” Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at either of his email addresses, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.