Amanda Knox Is on Trial Again. What Happens If She’s Convicted?

A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
Sept. 30 2013 5:56 PM

Amanda Knox Is on Trial Again. What Happens If She’s Convicted?

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Amanda Knox in 2010.

Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images

For the third time in six years, an Italian court has convened to consider Amanda Knox’s culpability in the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher. After the initial convictions of Knox and former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were thrown out by an appellate court in 2011, Italy’s highest court reviewed the decision, found it wanting, and sent the case back to be retried. Today, the latest trial began, albeit with one prominent absentee: Amanda Knox. This isn’t a problem now—Italian law allows criminal defendants to be tried in absentia—but it may well become one if Knox is convicted. What might happen next?

She is acquitted. While this is obviously the best-case scenario for Knox, it still wouldn’t necessarily mean an end to her legal problems. If Knox is indeed acquitted, the Italian high court would still have to review the case, and could easily order another trial if it was unsatisfied with the appellate court’s verdict.

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She is convicted. If Knox is indeed found guilty, her lawyers will certainly ask the Italian high court to review the decision. If the high court finds anything wrong with the decision, it could send the case back for yet another trial, and the circle of life would begin anew. If the high court affirms the conviction, then it’s all over, and Italy may well request Knox’s extradition from the United States.

Under the terms of the extradition agreement between the two nations, the United States is theoretically obliged to surrender all those who have been convicted in Italian courts. But I think it’s unlikely this will happen, if only because it would be a very unpopular decision with Americans. What happens in case of a stalemate? For one thing, Interpol would likely issue a warrant for Knox’s arrest, and she would likely be arrested if she ever again left the United States.

This, of course, assumes that Italy insists on pressing the point and bringing Knox back to serve her time. But this isn’t inevitable. Italy knows that it might be difficult to compel Knox’s return, which is why I think it’s most likely that, in the event of a conviction, Italy will seek some sort of face-saving third option, such as sentencing her to time served. It's also theoretically possible that Italy and the United States could reach an agreement wherein Knox would serve her sentence in a U.S. prison. The only thing we really know for sure is that this case will once again be in the news for many, many months. Hooray?

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.

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