Amanda Knox and the U.S.-Italian Extradition Treaty

With an Italian appellate court having just overturned Amanda Knox’s murder conviction, the prosecutor on the case, Giuliano Mignini, has stated that he will appeal to have the conviction and sentence reinstated. Meanwhile, Ms. Knox is back in the United States and out of the reach of the Italian government. Given that the prosecutor has not yet filed his appeal, its basis and likely result remain unclear. Assume for the sake of argument, however, that the Italian high court sides with the prosecutor and reinstates the conviction and sentence, and that Italy subsequently requests Ms. Knox’s extradition. Would the United States comply?

Most media reports suggest that the United States would refuse to extradite. But as a purely legal matter, it is questionable that such a move would be permissible. The United States and Italy are parties to a bilateral treaty in which the United States has agreed to extradite to Italy “persons whom [Italian] authorities . . . have charged with or found guilty of an extraditable offense.” The treaty defines “extraditable offense” to include an offense “punishable under the laws of both [countries] by deprivation of liberty for a period of more than one year or by a more severe penalty.” Murder is plainly punishable in the United States by imprisonment for over a year, and Ms. Knox’s original sentence of 26 years in prison demonstrates that the same is true in Italy. The crime for which the Italian high court might reinstate the Knox conviction, therefore, is an extraditable offense.

This analysis suggests that if Italy were to request extradition after reinstatement of the conviction and sentence, international law would pose no obstacle to fulfillment of the request.

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