Amanda Knox retrial: a tale of two countries' legal systems (+video)
Amanda Knox likely will not return to Italy for the murder retrial, and a new verdict is probably years away. In that time, much will be learned about the interaction of two 'very different legal systems.'
The decision by the Italian Supreme Court to retry American Amanda Knox for murder will highlight the differences between the two country’s legal systems and test how extradition treaties operate when citizens are convicted of crimes in a foreign country.
The 25-year-old former exchange student in Perugia, Italy, was convicted in 2009 of murdering her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, and sentenced to 26 years in prison. She served almost four years before the verdict was overturned in 2011.
“This case will be very valuable for the spotlight it shines on how two countries with very different legal systems will behave in a high-profile case,” says Robert Pugsley, a professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles.
He and others say it is unlikely that Ms. Knox will go to Italy for the trial, but she could be tried “in absentia” (without her presence), and the verdict is likely still years away. Most analysts also agree that the US likely would not extradite Knox if the Italian court sentences her to more time.
General rules about extradition among Westernized countries hinge on the rights of the accused or convicted person in the country where they are located. So, for example, the US would not extradite Knox if it felt the Italian trial would expose her to "double jeopardy" – a concept that violates the US Constitution.
“The Fifth Amendment includes a double jeopardy clause – stating that ‘[no] person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb,’ ” says Ian Wallach, a criminal attorney in Los Angeles, who clerked at the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. “Having Ms. Knox tried again would violate the USA’s public policy against double jeopardy.”