Amanda Knox and Double Jeopardy

Amanda Knox’s acquittal has been overturned by an Italian court. If, as seems likely to happen, a request is made that she be extradited from the US to Italy for a retrial, would her (US) Constitutional right to not be subject to double jeopardy override any extradition treaties between the two countries?

I know that US laws and rights have no standing in Italy. My question, and implicit point, though, is whether US authorities and courts would facilitate what would be a violation of Knox’s Constitutional rights had things occurred in the US.

From what I can see is that the Italian Court of Cassation has set aside the Court of Appeals decision and remanded it back to that Court. I don’t think that violates Double Jeopardy.

According to the NYT article linked to above, "Italy’s highest court on Tuesday overturned a previous acquittal and ordered a new trial in the sensational case of Amanda Knox, . . . " (emphasis added)

Would not the “new trial” suggest that there is about to be double jeopardy?

I don’t think it has any bearing on her extradition. If the US government could only extradite people to countries that incorporate the Bill of Rights into their legal system, then it wouldn’t be able to extradite anyone anywhere. She hasn’t been indicted by a grand jury, and will not be tried by her peers, so those would be other reasons to refuse her extradition.

There’s a difference between could be violated and would be violated. If she had been indicted on a fresh murder charge, then extradition would not raise a constitutional issue.

Part of what motivated me to ask is the (admittedly stretched) similarity to those cases where my country, Canada, refuses to extradite anyone who may face the death penalty in the extraditing country. In other words, because that country’s possible actions are at odds with our laws and sensibilities, we refuse to comply with the request.

Are you saying there is a constitutional issue?

I don’t know the facts of the extradition claim very well. I’m just saying that claiming that if a particular extradition definitely would be directly facilitating the violation of an American constitutional right, that is a different story than saying “well, how can we extradite anyone to any country because it’s possible that they’d also receive treatment that would run afoul of our constitution if it were incorporated there.”

Would her extradition also **definitely **be a violation of her right to be tried for murder only after indictment by a grand jury?

I’m surprised that the first appeal resulted in an acquittal instead of a demand for retrial, or simply declaring a mistrial.

To my reading, getting a new trial after acquittal is a violation of double jeopardy. The EU has double jeopardy protections, but allow new trials if there is a “fundamental defect” in the original case. Honestly, I figure that “the prosecutors did a horrible job” should not count as a defect. The text also includes the term “finally acquitted” which maybe Knox wasn’t, which might explain why the appeals decision was acquittal instead of mistrial. Maybe the appeals court can only give non-final acquittals.

linky poo

It’s difficult to draw precise parallels between Italian and American criminal procedure.

But if it helps, remember that Knox was first convicted at the trial court. If that happened here in the U.S., and an intermediate appellate court overturned her conviction – and perhaps even on grounds that forbid retrial, such as insufficiency of the evidence – a higher appellate court could reinstate the conviction, or even remand for a new trial – that is, overturn the guilty verdict because of errors at trial, but allow a new trial by not finding an insufficiency of the evidence.

So while the Italian system is different, and the use of “acquittal” doesn’t carry the same implications it does here, the general series of events could happen here: guilty at the trial court; conviction overturned and no retrial possible as an order from the intermediate appellate court; retrial ordered by the final appellate authority.

That was very helpful. Thank you.

FWIW, I’ve read on another board that Knox absolutely, positively does not have to go back to Italy to stand (re-)trial. Has it already been firmly established that the U.S. will not extradite Knox, or are some people just talking out of their rear ends.

I think that is correct, because of specifics in extradition norms and Italian law I don’t think they can actually force her to come and be tried. But Italian law allows for trial in absentia, so they will try her whether she shows up or not. If convicted, they then absolutely can ask that the United States extradite her.

It’s unclear if they will, though. I don’t think the double jeopardy argument would prevent her from being extradited, but there are other problems I’ve heard about in regard to how this case was handled that might. U.S. doesn’t require another country to exactly follow our legal principles, but if the court handling the extradition found some stuff it had serious problems with in how the Italian court handled the first trial or the retrial it could still refuse to extradite.

Nitpic Where in the U.S. Bill of Rights does it say one has a right to be tried by ones peers?

IANAL, but I believe that even in the US, if a trial is declared a mistrial, then the original trial effectively didn’t happen and the case can be tried again. This isn’t “double jeopardy”.

According to the wikipedia article on DJ, regarding the EU,

My recollection is that if there is prosecutorial misconduct causing the mistrial in the US, then double jeopardy does attach.

I think the double jeopardy claim would give the US authorities grounds to refuse extradition, but would not require them to do so.

If this happened in the United States, do you believe it would constitute double jeopardy?

In what way is double jeopardy relevant to this case?

And where do we find a requirement of indictment by a grand jury before trial? Plenty of states don’t use grand juries.