This past Thursday, an Italian court once again handed down a guilty verdict for Amanda Knox. Knox, who has previously spent four years in Italian prison for the murder of Meredith Kercher, could potentially face extradition if future appeals on her behalf fall short. “I will never go willingly back,” Knox told ABC’s “Good Morning America” after watching the outcome of the trial. Knox did not return to Italy for the retrial.
Amanda Knox was studying abroad in the Italian university town of Perugia when her roommate, Meredith Kercher, a British student, was found murdered in their apartment. Kercher had been stabbed multiple times, and possibly raped. Prosecutors alleged that Knox, her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, and drug-dealing drifter Rudy Guede had killed Kercher after she refused to participate in a sex game. All three were originally found guilty and jailed in 2009, but Sollecito and Knox were both found innocent in a 2011 appeals court decision.
At that point, the original convictions were overturned, with the appeals court citing a lack of evidence of Knox’s and Sollecito’s involvement, and poorly collected evidence. The original trial relied on a kitchen knife as a key finding, but later re-testing showed no trace of Kercher’s blood or DNA — it was not the murder weapon. The appeals court decided that other forensic evidence had received a similar bias in the original case. Kercher’s bra clasp, for example, which was found to have Sollecito’s DNA on it, was only collected six weeks after the murder. The appeals court ruled this as sloppy police work that led to evidence contamination.
After the acquittal, Italy’s supreme court ordered a third trial that resulted in the return of the guilty verdicts — this is the trial that, once again, ruled in favor of Knox’s guilt. The supreme court posited that, regardless of mistakes made in the original trial, the evidence overall still clearly pointed at Knox and Sollecito. The high court claims that the appeals court was biased in favor of the defendants.
What will happen now that the verdict has been handed down? For now, a future appeal of the trial is definite, and Italy is unlikely to request Knox’s extradition before that happens. Legal opinion remains divided on what would happen after that point, if the conviction is upheld. CNN’s legal analyst, Sonny Hostin, has said that U.S. laws regarding double jeopardy could make extradition unlikely. “Because of this tension between Italian and U.S. law, it is unlikely that U.S. law will extradite her,” he explains.
On the other hand, legal commentators point out that this headline case could put the U.S. in a tough spot. The State Department is currently fighting to have Edward Snowden returned to the U.S., and denying Italy’s request for extradition would make for a sticky situation. It’s also possible that Italian prosecutors and the U.S. could work out a deal for Knox to serve her time in the U.S., rather than having to return to Italy once more.
Criticism of the case’s handling have come from both countries, as well as a now international audience following the details. Many wonder whether Knox would have been released at all had she not been a white, young, middle-class American girl. Others see blame in a scapegoating Italian legal system, who decided to continue focusing on Knox and Sollecito as suspects even after their original theory of a ritualistic sex game began to fall apart under the intense gaze of international media. It’s not surprising that the amended theory prosecutors offered, that Knox murdered Kercher over a dispute about sloppy housekeeping, felt underwhelming as far as murder motives go.
During the initial investigation, many of the confessionary details trial investigators held against Knox had been obtained in an untaped interview with Knox that went on for hours, where she was not given access to a lawyer, and where, according to Knox, police hit her for giving the wrong answers. Guede, in a Skype conversation with a friend, had said Knox had nothing to do with the murder. His story regarding her involvement changed after he was put in touch with a defense lawyer. Guede received a shorter sentence for his implication of Knox.
For their part, Knox and Sollecito continue to maintain their innocence. Their defence lawyers are now claiming that the judge who decided on the guilty verdict is guilty of impropriety, having made public comments about what he thought of Sollecito’s defense strategy. Their case is far from over, and the question of what exactly happened to Meredith Kercher that night, and to what extend anyone other than Guede was involved, remains uncertain.