Amanda Knox verdict puts US credibility on trial

Amanda Knox (L), the U.S. student convicted of murdering her British flatmate Meredith Kercher in Italy in November 2007, arrives at the court during her appeal trial session in Perugia September 30.
Amanda Knox was convicted, then acquitted, of the murder of her British flatmate, Meredith Kercher, in Italy in November 2007.
Credit: Reuters

Amanda Knox faces judgement day for the fourth time in six years Thursday, with a Florence court set to deliver its verdict on whether to uphold her conviction for the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher. The American, 26, will hear the outcome remotely, having refused to attend the trial, and has vowed to become a “fugitive” rather than return to Italy if convicted.

Indications are not positive for Knox, but if the verdict goes against her, she has options beyond life as a runaway. Italy’s Supreme Court would have to sign off on the ruling before extradition proceedings could start, with no guarantee this would be pursued.

But should the case get that far, legal experts believe Knox would be in trouble.

“No standard appeal is available for an extradition,” Christopher L. Blakesley, professor of international law at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told Metro. “Her defense might try to argue that the second trial and appeals violated double jeopardy. This would be problematic as the U.S. understood the nature of the Italian criminal justice system when it entered into the treaty, assuming that it met due process standards.”

Unless a clear flaw was shown in the Italian legal system, extradition proceedings could only stop at the State Department level, explained Julian Ku, international law specialist at Hofstra University, New York.

“It could become a political question as she has so much popular support. If the U.S. does not care about its extradition treaty with Italy, it might decide not to turn her over,” Ku said.

But that could be a costly decision in a sensitive climate, believes Ku.

“In general, the U.S. benefits from these treaties more than their partners, and the general policy is to cooperate where possible,” Ku said. “The [Edward] Snowden case could work against Knox – it just highlights that the U.S. needs these treaties, and it will be under pressure to comply.”

If the Florence court rules against Knox, she could pursue a similar route to the NSA whistleblower and seek asylum in a non-extraditable country. Even if it rules in her favor, there may still be a price to pay, as Kercher’s family could sue for the profits from her book.


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