Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito found themselves facing an uncertain future after a court in Italy handed down a second guilty verdict for their part in the murder of Meredith Kercher. The pair were originally found guilty of the murder of the 21-year old British student in 2007, but the decision was overturned in 2011.
What happens next to the pair is still unclear, although both announced their intention to challenge a guilty verdict before the trial concluded. As things stand, Knox faces a 28 and a half year sentence, possibly to be reduced in light of the four years already served, while Sollecito received a sentence of 25 years.
Italian citizen Sollecito is in Italy and has surrendered his travel documents, although he is not currently in police custody. Sollecito has promised to cooperate with authorities but declared himself too emotional to attend today’s verdict.
In the case of Knox, the question of whether she will ever see the inside of an Italian jail is the subject of much debate, and may eventually fall to John Kerry for an answer.
American citizen Amanda Knox is currently at home with her family in Seattle and did not voluntarily travel to Italy for this second trial. It is widely believed that she is not eligible for extradition under existing treaties. Knox has already been tried for this crime once, and U.S. statutes on double jeopardy would seem to invalidate this second guilty verdict. This has not been officially confirmed by U.S. authorities, however, so there remains some uncertainty about her future.
Even if Knox is not automatically protected by the double jeopardy rules, she may successfully be able to contest any attempted extradition on the basis that no new evidence was presented at this second trial. If she is unable to block the extradition through legal channels, it may fall to Secretary of State John Kerry to make the ultimate decision on whether to hand her over to the Italians.
The United States has previously shown a deep unwillingness to hand its own citizens over to foreign judiciaries. In 1998, a Marine Corps aircraft in a low-level flight over the Dolomite mountains severed the supporting cable of a ski lift, killing 20 people. Although President Bill Clinton offered a formal apology for what became known as “The Massacre of Cermis,” Italy’s requests for extradition were refused and the pilots involved were found not guilty by a U.S. military court. In 2013, a non-American believed to be of Romanian origin was successfully extradited from the United States to Italy.
While few people think it likely that Amanda Knox will actually serve further jail time, it remains to be seen whether she will ever successfully clear her name. The future is even more uncertain for Sollecito who may now have to argue against this second guilty verdict from within an Italian jail cell. Even for the family of Meredith Kercher, who were present at the verdict, this must surely seem like one more step in the long journey towards finally bringing her killers to justice.
By Bernard O’Leary