WASHINGTON — Italy’s highest court will decide whether to uphold Amanda Knox’s murder conviction in the infamous 2007 case for which she had previously been found guilty and later acquitted.
But when the Italian court renders its verdict on Friday, Knox will be thousands of miles away, beyond the reach of Italian officials — for now.
Italian police officers can’t just disembark on American soil and drag Knox back to prison in Italy. But if Knox is found guilty, Italian officials could commence extradition proceedings, asking their American counterparts to put Knox on a plane back to Italy so she can face what could be a 28-year prison sentence.
Under normal circumstances, the U.S. would be required to extradite Knox because of a 1983 extradition treaty between the U.S. and Italy that establishes a framework for individuals charged or convicted of certain crimes in one country to be detained by officials in the other and sent back to the former.
It’s nothing unusual. The U.S. actually has extradition agreements with more than 100 countries.
But the high-profile nature of the case and the controversial evidence around which prosecutors have built their argument make Knox’s extradition anything but certain.
That likely won’t stop Italian officials from calling up their American counterparts and asking for Knox’s extradition — but U.S. officials might be inclined to say no.
It wouldn’t be the first time the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Italy has broken down, but past cases in which the U.S. refused to extradite individuals convicted in Italy — or Italy didn’t request their extradition — involved U.S. military and intelligence officials.
Knox’s case would be a new test for American diplomatic and justice officials.
And while some legal experts contend Knox could very well be extradited, others say U.S. officials could refuse to hand over Knox by leaning on a double-jeopardy clause included in the extradition treaty between the two countries.
“Extradition shall not be granted when the person sought has been convicted, acquitted or pardoned, or has served the sentence imposed, by the Requested Party for the same acts for which extradition is requested,” the treaty states.
And Knox was, according to M. Cherif Bassiouni, a former U.N. lawyer and international extradition law expert.
American and Italian officials may interpret the treaty’s double-jeopardy clause differently based on their own judicial systems, but Bassiouni said no interpretation would pass muster.
“Whatever the interpretation of article VI may be … Amanda Knox would not be extraditable to Italy should Italy seek her extradition because she was retried for the same acts, the same facts, and the same conduct,” Bassiouni wrote in an Oxford University Press blog post. “Her case was reviewed three times with different outcomes even though she was not actually tried three times.”