Will Amanda Knox Be Extradited? Lawyers Disagree

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. on February 03, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Will Amanda Knox be extradited? Speculation is running rampant, as the 26-year-old Seattle woman has once again been found guilty of murder in Italy for the stabbing death of her former roommate Meredith Kercher in 2007.

Knox's original murder conviction was overturned by an Italian appeals court, but Italy's Supreme Court ordered a retrial, Reuters reports. Knox was sentenced to 28 and a half years in prison in Italy, but she would have to be extradited to serve her time.

Will that actually happen? Even lawyers who focus on international law disagree over the answer to that question. Here are a few factors weighing into the debate:

The Italy-U.S. Extradition Treaty

One tactic Italy could potentially use to extradite Knox is to cite its International Extradition Treaty with the United States.

The treaty, signed by President Ronald Reagan, became effective in 1984. Among its provisions, it stipulates that both Italy and the United States agree to extradite to each other criminals who are found guilty of an extraditable offense.

An extraditable offense is one that's punishable by more than one year in prison or an even more severe penalty under the laws of both countries. For Knox, her retrial ended in a lengthy prison sentence for murder; in the states, she would likely have received more than a year in prison for the same charge. So Knox's crime could be considered an extraditable offense under the treaty.

Other Possible Factors

Still, the U.S. Constitution is the highest law of the land and trumps all treaties that conflicts with it. A potential problem for Italy could be that the U.S. Constitution doesn't allow for "double jeopardy": The government can't charge the same person twice for the same crime.

Some lawyers say the U.S. government could view Knox's overturned murder conviction, followed by a retrial for the same crime, as a violation of double jeopardy protections and refuse extradition on those grounds. However, other attorneys argue that because Knox's initial acquittal wasn't technically finalized by Italy's Supreme Court, double jeopardy arguments won't matter, The Associated Press reports.

Another potential way to fight extradition is "to show a complete breakdown of [the other country's] judicial system," one international law expert told Reuters. But that doesn't seem to have happened in Knox's case, he said.

To begin the extradition process, Italian law enforcement would first have to issue an arrest warrant for Knox, according to the AP. Knox's lawyers would then likely try to fight the extradition in federal court before the State Department makes the final decision.

The U.S. Secretary of State also has the final right to veto extradition requests, Reuters reports.

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