- - Thursday, January 30, 2014

Even with Amanda Knox’s second conviction for murder, her tortuous relationship with Italy’s justice system is far from over — and her extradition from the U.S. is hardly a foregone conclusion.

Italy’s supreme court will review the guilty verdict on appeal in coming months, even as the State Department awaits an extradition request from the Italian Embassy in Washington.

If the Italian Supreme Court of Cessation upholds the verdict, Secretary of State John F. Kerry likely will have to decide whether to extradite Ms. Knox or risk the appearance of a U.S. violation of its extradition treaty with Italy, which has been in effect since 1983.

“Secretary Kerry could decide that, given all the alleged due process problems in the prior Italian trial and all the time already spent in detention, that justice is served if the U.S. does not extradite Ms. Knox because she would be subjected to re-prosecution under difficult circumstances,” extradition lawyer Bruce Zagaris told The Washington Times before the verdict was announced.

In a third trial of the American graduate student, an appellate court in Florence, Italy, on Thursday found Ms. Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaelle Sollecito guilty of the murder of British student Meredith Kercher in the university city of Perugia in 2007. Each was sentenced to 28½ years in prison.

Ms. Knox and Mr. Sollecito, both of whom had been held in jail since their 2007 arrests, were convicted in 2009 and sentenced to 30 years in prison. An appellate court in 2011 overturned their convictions, and Ms. Knox returned home to Seattle.

But Italy’s highest criminal court, prompted by a prosecutorial appeal, overturned the court’s acquittal last year and ordered a third trial — with Ms. Knox, now 26, being tried in absentia.

In a statement Thursday, Ms. Knox said called the result an “unjust verdict” that she blamed on an “overzealous and intransigent prosecution,” a “narrow-minded investigation” and coercive interrogation.

“This has gotten out of hand,” she said. “Having been found innocent before, I expected better from the Italian justice system.”

Attorneys for both Mr. Sollecito, who attended the trial in Florence, and Ms. Knox said they would appeal to Italy’s supreme court, The Associated Press reported.

“There isn’t a shred of proof,” Sollecito attorney Luca Maori said. Knox attorney Carlo Dalla Vedova said the court cannot “convict a person because it is probable that she is guilty … it foresees certainty.”

Ms. Knox has received an outpouring of sympathy and support from Americans. The image of the land of the free allowing a foreign power to extradite a young, bright-eyed woman from Seattle to a dark, damp dungeon has not resonated well with some. Support groups have spoken out against extradition ever since Ms. Knox returned home.

In an extradition case, the Justice Department would represent the requesting state — in this case, Italy — before a federal judge or magistrate to sign a Certificate of Extraditibility. But Ms. Knox could not be turned over to Italian authorities without Mr. Kerry’s approval, a decision that may weigh heavy on the conscience of the former prosecutor and father of two daughters.

“The U.S. could take the position that subjecting Ms. Knox to re-prosecution in Italy could violate her constitutional rights as a U.S. citizen,” Mr. Zagaris said. “In circumstances where a requested person has been previously acquitted for the same act or offense in the requesting country, it has been held that there is no constitutional or statutory bar to the U.S. granting extradition. … It is an issue U.S. extradition treaties normally do not cover. Ordinarily, the secretary of state in his or her discretionary authority must deal with this issue.”

Mr. Kerry’s potential conundrum shines a light on the emerging era of “transnational law,” which pits the domestic laws of one country against the citizens of another. In this case, three countries are affected — the U.S., Britain and Italy.

Transnational law differs from international law, which applies equally to members of the United Nations and is enforced by impartial, international bodies such as the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.

Denying an Italian request to extradite Ms. Knox for the murder of a British national could have diplomatic consequences with Italy and Britain.

“Extradition is a mutuality-reciprocal relationship, and Italy would not feel good about accusations concerning its criminal justice system,” Mr. Zagaris said.

If the U.S. denies an Italian extradition request but later needs to extradite a fugitive from Italy, authorities there could “return the favor” by denying the U.S. request, possibly turning Italy into a haven for organized crime syndicates there.

In a 2013 Wall Street Journal article, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz opined: “As national borders become more porous … the trend toward the transnational application of laws will become more pronounced. … By becoming an exchange student in Italy, Ms. Knox subjected herself to Italian law. By coming back to America, she received the protection of the American extradition process. As for how this will turn out, she is in uncharted territory.”

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is a former Washington prosecutor.

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