Italy and Amanda Knox

The Supreme Court in Italy has overturned Amanda Knox's acquittal by a lower appeals court. According to media accounts, a new trial will be held. According to her U.S. Attorney, Ted Simon, only a "revision" of the acquittal was ordered, which is like a reconsideration, and it's far from certain a new trial will occur.

He characterized the outcome of Tuesday’s court decision as a "revision" of the case, as opposed to a retrial, saying: "Merely because they have sent it back for revision does not mean that anything else will happen other than she will be recognized as not guilty and the same thing will happen again."


“From what I understand, [Court of Cassation judges] have sent [the case] back for revision and reconsideration. They will review it. They may simply affirm that there was a ‘not guilty’ before and it should remain the same. They may seek to take some further evidence, but nothing has really changed.”

On October 3, 2011, the global media was riveted by the imminent Amanda Knox appeals court verdict. I live-blogged it here. The appeals court declared her not guilty.

Prosecutors appealed to Italy's highest court. While the court didn't take a position on Knox' guilt or innocence, it did overturn the appeals court verdict.

No reasons were given for the ruling -- the court has 60 days to issue a written explanation of its findings. And Knox does not have to return to Italy for a retrial, if one is held.

Italy has an unusual justice system. Two levels of appeals are allowed, and at the first level, the appeals court operates like a jury. Italy allows prosecutors to appeal acquittals, including those by appeals courts. In the U.S., it would be a violation of the Double Jeopardy clause for the prosecution to appeal an acquittal.

The question is, what happens if she is convicted at the next trial? When all her appeals are done, if she loses, will Italy seek her extradition? And if it does, will the U.S. deny extradition because the procedure under which she was convicted would be unconstitutional in the U.S.?

Apparently, should it get to that point, the answer may depend upon how the judge presiding over Knox's challenge to the extradition request views the extradition treaty we signed with Italy in the context of the double jeopardy clause. Reuters reports:

What is unpredictable is how such a case would play out in front of a U.S. judge who would have to weigh the U.S. constitutional protection against double jeopardy with the 1984 bilateral extradition treaty between the United States and Italy. The treaty contains a provision that attempts to protect against double jeopardy, but it is not clear whether that provision would bar extradition in Knox's case.

The legal question would be whether Knox was acquitted, as U.S. courts would define the term, or whether the case was merely reversed and still open for further appeal, said criminal lawyer and Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. "It's very complicated, and there's no clear answer. It's in the range of unpredictable," Dershowitz said.

While the news is undoubtedly upsetting to Amanda Knox and her family from a legal standpoint, I suspect it will be a big boon for her publisher, who paid her $4 million for her book which is coming out in April.

< Evan Ebel's Cadillac Contents | George Zimmerman Lawyers Seek Sanctions Against Prosecutor >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    the case they built against her (none / 0) (#1)
    by TeresaInPa on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 07:27:45 AM EST
    was so bizarre the first time around I can hardly believe they want to rehash it.  

    The legal system in Italy..... (none / 0) (#2)
    by magster on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 10:06:23 AM EST
    defies explanation.

    To paraphrase (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Zorba on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 03:20:59 PM EST
    Winston Churchill, who said,
    No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

    I would add that our judicial system, which certainly has way more than its share of faults, as this blog continually points out (and thank you, Jeralyn), our judiciary is also "the worst form.....except for all those other forms......"

    Defying explanation doesn't necessarily mean.... (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by magster on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 03:39:53 PM EST
    that it's worse.

    Prediction: she will be convicted in absentia so as to humiliate her and give prosecutors a closed case, but they will not ask for extradition, satisfied that she has the label of "murderer".


    I think that (none / 0) (#6)
    by Zorba on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 04:58:46 PM EST
    you may very well be correct, magster.  This case seems to be one in which the Italians want to satisfy their own people, as well as their own prosecutors, regardless of the "facts of the case" and the evidence.

    One thing I do like about their justice system (none / 0) (#9)
    by TeresaInPa on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 10:45:18 AM EST
    they expect you to lie in your own defense and so you are not punished for doing so. That seems sensible and civilized to me.  = )

    For one thing (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by jbindc on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 04:50:20 PM EST
    The legal system in Italy is based on Roman (later Napoleonic) law, unlike our system, which is based on English common law, so there are different rules about how things are done.

    Also - they already have a conviction on her - her slander conviction was upheld.


    and she already served (none / 0) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 10:11:25 PM EST
    more than the maximum penalty for slander, so that's over.

    Yes (none / 0) (#8)
    by jbindc on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 07:03:22 AM EST
    The Court gave her time served for the time she spent in prison before her trial.

    Italian System Worse Than US Criminal Justice? (none / 0) (#10)
    by RickyJim on Fri Mar 29, 2013 at 08:31:26 PM EST
    That would be very hard to prove one way or the other.  Here is a fairly recent article that attempts to make a comparison, with special attention to the Amanda Knox case.  Some of the things I like about the Italian system are the random selection of jurors, very limited plea bargaining, and both sides being given the opportunity for a new trial if they didn't like the result of their first defeat (as is happening in the Knox case).  I think having a judge compile the dossier of evidence to be used by both sides at trial beats the never ending squabbles about discovery that plague the US system.  Unfortunately, the prosecution has a much bigger role than the defense in compiling that dossier.  However, unlike some US locations (Florida is a notorious example), the prosecutor can't decide to go ahead and press a case on his own without a judge agreeing the evidence warrants it.  What also I don't like is that the prosecution is in bed with the police as much as it is in many US jurisdictions.  This seemed to be a problem in the Knox case.  Elsewhere in Europe, there is a wall of separation.