- - Tuesday, October 1, 2013


The retrial of Amanda Knox on murder charges in Italy and the imminent extradition of Playboy Playmate Brandi Brandt to Australia on drug charges have reignited discussion about extradition treaties and the rights of Americans accused by a foreign state.

Currently, the U.S. is bound by extradition treaties with about 100 countries, but does not have them with dozens of others — notably Russia and China. The lack of an extradition agreement with Russia prevented the Justice Department from pursuing NSA leaker Edward J. Snowden in Moscow, where he has received asylum.

SEE ALSO: Amanda Knox’s second murder trial kicks off in Italy — without her

But Ms. Knox faces a harsher reality because the U.S. and Italy have an extradition treaty.

In 2011, an Italian appellate court overturned Ms. Knox’s and her ex-boyfriend Raffaelle Sollecito’s 2009 convictions of murdering roommate Meredith Kercher in Perugia.

This week, an appellate court in Florence opened the third prosecution of the pair, following the Italian Supreme Court’s order to the appeals court judges to reconsider their acquittal.

Mr. Sollecito is attending the trial, but Ms. Knox is not. Her absence waives her right to face her accusers, testify on her behalf and make “spontaneous declarations” to challenge testimony. She also could face contempt charges for not showing up.

If she again is convicted, the case probably will tried for a fourth time before the Italian Supreme Court.

Some legal analysts believe the U.S. will be legally bound to return Knox to Italy if she is convicted, since the U.S. Senate has ratified an extradition treaty.

“The Senate considers whether a treaty country’s criminal justice is fair,” extradition attorney Bruce Zagaris said in an e-mail. “She can try to make the unfairness argument in that case, but U.S. jurisprudence limits such arguments.”

Mr. Zagaris was referring to exceptions that enable an accused person to challenge extradition. For instance, a request for extradition can be rejected if:

• The “dual criminality” requirement — that a charged offense is a crime in both countries — is not met.

• The offense is a military violation such as desertion or is a political crime.

• The requesting country engages in degrading treatment or torture.

• The prosecuting country administers extra-judicial punishment that the offender’s country would not engage in.

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