If at First You Don’t Succeed…



I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

Last week, with an assist from the Italian version of the Supreme Court (for criminal matters), U.S. student Amanda Knox was convicted, again, on a charge of murdering her Perugia, Italy, roommate. I don’t know whether she did it or not.

Amanda Knox was first convicted in 2009, and served four years, including two years served before trial ended. Under Italian law (I think I have this right), guilt must be confirmed by a higher court on appeal. The higher court overturned the conviction in 2011, entering an acquittal and releasing her from prison. Having seen enough of Italy, Amanda Knox returned home.

The Italian Supremes, almost two years later, overturned the acquittal and ordered a new trial before yet another appellate court. Last Thursday, claiming they had seen evidence and discrepancies in testimony that the original appellate court hadn’t addressed, the new appellate court convicted her. Again.

From an American point of view, this is just weird. Here the prosecution gets one bite at the apple, and an acquittal means case closed, as far as the defendant is concerned. Italian prosecutors get as many as three bites of the apple, and the highest Italian criminal court just offered them a second helping.

For Amanda Knox, unless she is extradited, the only legal downside is that the Pope will have to come to her if they want to talk over any possible sins.

Will she be extradited? Some very respected American legal analysts, including Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, think she will be. Dershowitz, frequently a little snarky, thinks that if she isn’t, it’s because of a U.S. love-in for an attractive young damsel in distress. (Dershowitz didn’t seem to mind that sort of thing when he defended O.J. Simpson from charges he was even less kind to an even more attractive damsel in mortal distress.)

My own view is that the lawyers who argue to block any extradition will do so on the ground that we would subject an American citizen to a double jeopardy we would not tolerate in the United States. Many other countries with treaties with the U.S., by analogy, would refuse to extradite a capital murder suspect, even for trial, in a federal prosecution or state prosecution where the death penalty is a possible outcome. Although Amanda Knox would serve but 28 years in a sunny Italian prison, so may or may not die there, I just hate a legal system that let’s a prosecutor try, try, and try again before he gets it right.

Besides, she really is pretty cute.


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