Retrial of Amanda Knox in Italy Raises Questions About Jurisdiction, Extradition If She Is Convicted
The retrial of Amanda Knox, an American college student convicted of murdering her roommate in Italy, then later acquitted of those charges, began on September 30, 2013. A court overturned her conviction in 2011 and allowed her release from prison, but also ordered a new trial. Knox promptly returned to her home in Seattle, Washington, and the Italian court has conducted the new trial without her present. Since courts in Italy are not subject to the Fifth Amendment's limits on double jeopardy, Knox cannot object to the new proceeding on those grounds. If she is convicted again, however, Italy may not be able to exercise jurisdiction over her to enforce a prison sentence.
Knox was a University of Washington student attending school in Perugia, Italy in the fall of 2007. One of her roommates, British exchange student Meredith Kercher, was murdered in the house they shared. A jury convicted Knox and her Italian former boyfriend of murder in December 2009, even though another man confessed and pleaded guilty to the murder in 2008. The conduct of the police and prosecutors have been the subject of extensive criticism and debate. Knox's appeal eventually resulted in the reversal of her conviction in October 2011, with an order to conduct a new trial.
A court in Florence, Italy is currently trying Knox's case in absentia. The prosecutor asked the court to sentence her to twenty-six years in prison for the murder, plus an additional four years for slander for falsely implicating a Perugia bar owner in the murder. If the current trial results in a conviction, an appeal will follow, but it raises the question of whether Italy can enforce any prison sentence or other penalty against Knox. International law generally prevents one sovereign country from exercising jurisdiction over individuals in another country, except by agreement of both countries.