SEATTLE (AP) - To some Americans, especially those in her hometown of Seattle, Amanda Knox seems a victim, unfairly hounded by a capricious legal system in Italy that convicted her this week in the death of a 21-year-old British woman.
But in Europe, some see her as a privileged American who is getting away with murder, embroiled in a case that continues to make global headlines and reinforces a negative image of U.S. citizens behaving badly - even criminally - abroad without any punishment.
As she remains free in the U.S., the perceptions will likely fuel not only the debate about who killed Meredith Kercher in 2007 and what role, if any, Knox played in her death, but complicate how the U.S. and Italian governments resolve whether she should be sent to Italy to face prison.
“It’s been a polarizing case, and that polarization will remain,” said Anne Bremner, a Seattle attorney and Knox supporter.
The divergent views on who killed Kercher are rooted not just in the typical dynamics of a legal case in which the two sides hold opposing narratives, but also in the differences between the justice systems in the U.S. and Italy, and examples of Americans avoiding Italian justice.
After being first convicted and then acquitted, Knox and her one-time boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were convicted again Thursday, following their third trial. Knox was sentenced to 28 1/2 years, Sollecito to 25 years. The court’s reasoning isn’t expected to be released for three months.
The tone of some British newspaper coverage reflected skepticism about Knox’s protestations of innocence. “Shameless in Seattle” was the front-page headline on Saturday’s Daily Mail, which referred to Knox’s “brazen TV charm offensive to escape extradition.”
There have been other high-profile cases in which Italians hoped in vain to have Americans face justice there, notably the case of a U.S. Marine jet that sliced a gondola cable in the Italian Alps in 1998, killing 20 people.
Under NATO rules, the U.S. military retained jurisdiction, and the pilot was acquitted of manslaughter.
More recently, in 2009 Italian courts convicted - in absentia - 26 CIA and U.S. government employees in the kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric suspected of recruiting terrorists in Milan.
Some lawyers familiar with the process say Knox has little hope of avoiding extradition under the terms of the U.S.-Italy treaty, but that won’t stop her supporters from mounting a campaign to keep her in the U.S.
They’re appealing to American principles about trying someone multiple times for the same crime, even though under Italian law her earlier conviction and subsequent acquittal were never finalized, and even her third trial was considered part of the first prosecution against her.
They’re also asking how one appellate court could find her actually innocent, while another court convicts her beyond a reasonable doubt.