Amanda Knox is interviewed on the set of ABC's 'Good
Morning America' in New York late last month.
Italy's conviction of Amanda Knox for the murder of her
British roommate when the two were exchange students together
could spur a drawn-out fight over extradition in the United
States, where supporters contend she is the victim of a faulty
foreign justice system.
If Knox's conviction is ultimately confirmed pending further
appeals, her lawyers are expected to argue that the United
States cannot send her to Italy in part because of U.S.
constitutional guarantees against "double jeopardy," although
some experts say that could be a tough case to prove.
Knox and her former Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were
found guilty last week for the second time in the 2007
stabbing death of Meredith Kercher, in a retrial that
reversed an earlier appeal judgment that cleared her.
Knox, who spent four years in an Italian jail before
returning to the United States in 2011, was sentenced to 28
years and 6 months but will not face jail time pending
further appeals in Italy. Knox did not attend the trial and
would have to be extradited to serve her sentence.
"She has powerful legal arguments that she can use to fight
extradition, or the U.S. can use to deny extradition," said
Sean Casey, a New York-based former federal prosecutor.
"Under the law, the Constitution trumps a treaty."
Now 26 and a student at the University of Washington, Knox
said she would not willingly return to Italy.
"I'm going to fight this until the very end. And it's not
right, and it's not fair and I'm going to do everything that
I can," she told ABC News' "Good Morning America."
If Italian authorities ultimately seek her return, Knox could
find herself in a U.S. federal courtroom to fight it, and
experts were split on her chances of prevailing on legal
Some said a constitutional ban on being retried for the same
offense after an acquittal would trump an American-Italian
extradition agreement. U.S. courts may also frown on her
having been tried in absentia, they added.
Others counter the treaty implies an acceptance of the
Italian justice system, and that the legal case for
extradition is strong.
"You'd have to show a complete breakdown of their judicial
system," said Julian Ku, an international law expert at
Hofstra University. "There's no problem of hometown bias for
the victim because she was not a local. There's no evidence
SUPPORT AT HOME
Initially portrayed as a sex-obsessed party girl, Knox has
been commonly seen in her home country as a victim of a
judicial process riven with breakdowns in police procedure,
mishandling of crime scene evidence and prosecutorial
Knox's lawyers argued that only one person is guilty of the
murder: Ivory Coast-born Rudy Guede, who is serving a 16-year
sentence for sexually assaulting and stabbing Kercher. But
his trial found that he did not act alone.
In a measure of the support Knox has received close to home,
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, a Washington state Democrat,
said she was "very concerned and disappointed" by the
In a move that would be rare but not unprecedented, the U.S.
Secretary of State has the final right to veto an extradition
request, and legal analysts said Washington might feel
political pressure to keep Knox out of an Italian prison.
The U.S. State Department has said officials will continue to
monitor the Knox case.
"There's a lot of reasons it wouldn't sit well with folks in
our country to see her extradited," said Robert Anello, a New
York-based attorney and expert in international criminal law.
"That would weigh heavily on the political end."
Washington has proven willing in the past to shield citizens
from Italian justice. In 2009, U.S. officials said they would
not extradite 23 CIA members convicted in absentia in Italy
of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric under the U.S.
"extraordinary rendition" program.
A decade earlier, two U.S. Marines whose jet clipped the
cable of a ski resort gondola, killing 20 people, were tried
in a U.S. military court over the objection of Italian
prosecutors. They were found not guilty of involuntary
Denial of extradition would be met with disappointment by
Italian officials but would be unlikely to precipitate a
diplomatic crisis, several U.S.-based analysts said.
"There are limits to how seriously they feel about actually
getting a hold of her," said Paul Rothstein, a law professor
at Georgetown University who said an extradition process
could take months, if not years, to reach a final conclusion.
"They could have acted earlier, more vigorously."