Amanda Knox Conviction Overturned by Italy's Highest Court
Amanda Knox may now breathe a sigh of relief. She has finally been acquitted of murder.
Italy's highest court, the Court of Cassation, overturned Amanda Knox's latest conviction for the murder of Meredith Kercher. Knox's legal nightmare began in 2007 when her roommate in Italy, Meredith Kercher was found murdered in their home. Knox and her then boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were convicted of murder in 2009. They were then acquitted by an appeals court in 2011. The story did not end there. The Court of Cassation then overturned the acquittal and ordered a retrial in 2013. Knox and Sollecito were once again convicted in 2014. Friday's decision overturned the 2014 conviction, concluding that the evidence did not support the conviction.
Amanda Knox came back to the United States after her first acquittal. She has not returned to Italy since, and received news of the Court's decision with her family in her Seattle home.
If She Was Convicted Again, Why Isn't She in Italy?
Amanda Knox was convicted the second time in absentia. She did not return to Italy to face trial. While Italy and the United States do have an extradition treaty, Italy had not sought Knox's return.
Technically, the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Italy promises to permit extradition of any person charged with or convicted of any crime punishable by more than one year in prison. So, Knox would have been eligible for extradition.
Although, the treaty does promise that the accused or convicted person will not be extradited if she may face double jeopardy. Does double jeopardy apply in Knox's case?
Does Double Jeopardy Apply?
In the United States, the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment promises that, "No person shall ... be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb." Most states have statutes that also reiterate this.
Double jeopardy does not protect a person from being charged with a crime more than once. For example, Knox was charged with murdering Kercher. The prosecutor dropped the charges. If the prosecutor changes his mind again, double jeopardy does not prevent him from charging Knox with Kercher's murder again.
Double jeopardy only applies after jeopardy begins, or "attaches." In a jury trial, double jeopardy attaches when the jury is sworn in. In a trial before a judge, jeopardy begins when the first witness is sworn in. Also, double jeopardy does not protect defendants whose convictions were overturned on appeal, as Knox's conviction was.
Also, in Italy, an appellate acquittal is not a final judgment, so double jeopardy does not apply. Knox's retrial in 2013 did not violate double jeopardy. This time, Knox was acquitted on the basis of insufficiency of the evidence. Double jeopardy most likely does apply in this case, so it is unlikely that she will ever be tried again for Kercher's murder.
So while people may still disagree on Knox's guilt or innocence, she can now put these legal proceedings behind her, without fear of being tried and convicted again.
- Amanda Knox Case: Italian Court Overturns Murder Conviction (NBC News)
- What Do You Do if You're Falsely Accused of a Crime (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Amanda Knox Trial: DNA Review Requires More Time (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Amanda Knox Movie: Did Amanda Knox Lifetime Film Harm Her Case? (FindLaw's Blotter)