COMMENTARY | Amanda Knox, the U.S. college student made so famous (or infamous) for being jailed and tried in Italy for the alleged 2007 “sex game gone bad” murder of her British roommate, is back in the news because Italian prosecutors are appealing to have her re-tried for the crime. Knox and her Italian boyfriend were initially convicted of murder but had their convictions overturned, allowing her to return home to Seattle. Now, reports ABC News , prosecutors are asking the nation’s supreme court to overturn the release. If prosecutors are successful, the supreme court could order a new trial and request that Knox be extradited to Italy.
An extradition request would harm U.S.-Italian relations and put a spotlight on the differences between American and European criminal investigation and prosecution techniques. Critics have alleged that Italian police did a poor job investigating the crime scene and operated at levels of professionalism inferior to their U.S. counterparts. As a result, U.S. authorities are unlikely to send a citizen back to face prosecutors who likely garnered their evidence through such substandard methods. The Italian and European press, if they take umbrage at the refusal to extradite, could touch off an international debate over criminal justice.
Which nation’s criminal justice system is superior? Is it fair to extradite a citizen to a foreign nation that utilizes considerably different investigative and prosecutorial methods? How does the Italian prosecutors’ appeal compare to American concepts of double jeopardy? Heightening the legal drama is the weak Italian economy and unstable political situation. Is Italy perhaps trying to play politico-judicial games to exert diplomatic power over a citizen of a far more powerful nation, hoping to look stronger during an era of recession and Eurozone malaise?
And, equally as importantly, will America, perhaps hoping to look more team-oriented and less unilateral after 10 years of near-unilateral military action in Iraq, go along with an Italian request for extradition? Would the U.S. put the rights and freedoms of a citizen in jeopardy to strengthen its ties with Europe? Or, conversely, would accepting Italian demands for extradition make the United States look weak, more concerned with its global image as a new “nice guy” than one willing to put its foot down?
The situation is far more broad than just Italy and the United States. As the U.S. enters the post-Iraq and post-Afghanistan world, how will it play with friends?