Jens Davis Ohlin, an international law expert and professor of law at Cornell University, discusses how Italian law differs from the U.S. legal system – and how such differences will impact the Amanda Knox case.
“By the terms of our extradition treaty with Italy, Amanda Knox could certainly be extradited to Italy. Although there is a provision on double jeopardy in the treaty, it only applies to situations where a defendant is prosecuted in the United States and then Italy requests their extradition. Since Knox was never prosecuted in the U.S., this provision doesn’t apply. “The Italian system seems confusing to American observers because her appeals have involved multiple ‘trials’ in different appellate courts. This seems strange to those of us in the U.S., where appeals are restricted to matters of law. Also, in the U.S., only defendants can appeal; prosecutors cannot appeal a jury’s decision to acquit a defendant. The Italian system is different because appellate courts are permitted to re-examine questions of law and fact — which produces the strange result that their appeal courts sometimes conduct second and even third trials — a total misnomer from an American perspective. “Although it is hard to predict what will happen in the future, it seems likely that Italy’s highest court will affirm this latest conviction, since this is the same court that nullified the previous acquittal and ordered this trial which produced the new conviction.
“However, it seems very unlikely to me that Knox will be extradited to Italy. Her extradition would likely prompt a public outcry in the U.S., where belief in her innocence is widespread, and so I doubt the U.S. government will agree to turn her over. The Italians, knowing that she won’t be turned over, are unlikely to make an official request that would be denied.”