Conflict & Justice

Despite her murder conviction, Amanda Knox may never be extradited to Italy

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Credit: Andrew Kelly/Reuters

Amanda Knox sits for an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" in New York, January 31, 2014, a day after an Italian court upheld guilty verdicts against Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, on charges of murdering British student, Meredith Kercher.

Amanda Knox told ABC's Good Morning America Friday that she will never willingly go back to Italy. She was speaking a day after an Italian court found the 26-year-old Seattle resident guilty of murder, and sentenced her to 28 years in prison.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the audio to hear it.)

But if she won't go willingly, what is the likelihood she would be extradited? Knox denies having any involvement in the violent death of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, who was murdered in the Italian city of Perugia back in 2007. But twice now, Italian courts have ruled against Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito.

In between, a third verdict declared the pair not guilty.

Stefano Maffei, a lawyer and professor at the University of Parma, in Italy, believes the Italian authorities will seek Knox's extradition in about a year, once the appeals process is exhausted. But he also reckons their chances of success are slim.

"In my opinion, Amanda Knox will not eventually be extradited," he said. "I expect the US authorities to put forward a number of reasons, based on fairness of trial," he said.

One issue is that the re-trial, permissible under Italian law, could be presented as double-jeopardy. But even without that, the absence of trial by jury in the Italian justice system (in most cases) would probably be enough to block extradition. The US, Maffei says, doesn't have a tradition of extraditing its citizens to face trial abroad.

If the US did refuse to extradite Knox, Italy would be entitled to retaliate under the provisions of the mutual assistance and extradition treaties between the two nations. Italy has allowed the extradition to the United States of a number of suspects in organized crime cases in recent years. But Maffei thinks that Italian retaliation would also be unlikely. "It would be rather difficult for Italy to take such a stand, given relations with the US."

Maffei says he understands that US public opinion might be sympathetic to Knox, given the tone of much of the reporting in the US.

"But on the other hand," he says,"one should consider that yesterday's ruling simply confirmed the finding of the first instance court ... which assessed beyond reasonable doubt that the two defendants were guilty." He added that more than 27 individual judges have now heard this case, individually or in panel, "and they all consider the evidence to be beyond reasonable doubt." The only exception was the first court of appeal, whose judgement has now been quashed.

Maffei says, commentators in Italy agree that "justice was done, but in the Italian way, meaning: too late to be executed. It's too late for us to execute the sentence against Amanda Knox."

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