Amanda Knox’s judicial rollercoaster ride faces fresh political uproar as she awaits what may be her final trial in a six-year legal battle.
Italy’s highest court is about to consider once again what to do about the murder of Meredith Kercher, a 21-year-old British student stabbed to death in Perugia, Italy, on 1 November 2007.
American Amanda Knox, now 27, and her former Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 30, stand convicted of Meredith’s murder.
Knox’s never-ending trials over the brutal killing of her housemate have dominated headlines all over the world.
And next week a greatly-anticipated ruling could open the door to a whole new legal battle over Knox’s potential extradition from the US.
In pictures: The trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito
In pictures: The trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito
1/14 Amanda Knox 's lawyer arriving for the final verdict
Amanda Knox 's lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova arrives at the Italy's Supreme Court in Rome on March 27, 2015, the day that Knox's verdict was overturned
2/14 Raffaele Sollecito's lawyer before the final verdict
Giulia Bongiorno, lawyer of Raffaele Sollecito, delivers comments at the Palazzo di Giustizia courthouse before the last session for the final verdict of the Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito murder retrial
3/14 Amanda Knox on 'Good Morning America'
Amanda Knox sits alone before being interviewed on the set of ABC's 'Good Morning America' in New York, 2014
4/14 Amanda Knox on 'Good Morning America'
Amanda Knox wipes her nose with a tissue while making a television appearance in New York, 2014
5/14 Amanda Knox on 'Good Morning America'
Robin Roberts interviews Amanda Knox on ABC's 'Good Morning America' in New York, 2014
6/14 Raffaele Sollecito leaves the court
Raffaele Sollecito leaves the court in Florence, 2014
7/14 Raffaele Sollecito leaves the court
Raffaele Sollecito leaves the court in Florence. Judges in a Florence court gathered to decide whether US Amanda Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito are guilty of the 2007 murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, 2014
8/14 Kercher's sister, Stephanie Kercher and brother Lyle Kercher
Kercher's sister, Stephanie Kercher (L) and brother Lyle Kercher speak during a press conference in Florence, 2014
9/14 Appeals Court Judge Alessandro Nencini reads out the verdict
Appeals Court Judge Alessandro Nencini (C) reads out the verdict for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher in Florence, 2014
10/14 Layers of Raffaele Sollecito Luca Maori, Giulia Bongiorno and Amanda Knox's lawyer Carlo Della Vedova
(L-R) Layers of Raffaele Sollecito Luca Maori, Giulia Bongiorno and Amanda Knox's lawyer Carlo Della Vedova attend the final verdict of the Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito retrial at the Courthouse of Florence of Nuovo Palazzo di Giustizia in Florence, 2014
11/14 Amanda Knox on NBC News' 'Today' show
Amanda Knox speaks to Matt Lauer (L) as she appears on NBC News' 'Today' show in New York, 2013
12/14 Amanda Knox at a news conference at Sea-Tac International Airport
Amanda Knox cries and gestures to friends while her mother Edda Mellas sits next to her during a news conference at Sea-Tac International Airport, Washington after Knox landed there on a flight from Italy, 2011
13/14 Amanda Knox leaves the court
Amanda Knox breaking in tears as she leaves the court after the announce of the verdict of her appeal trial in the Meredith Kercher' murder at Perugia's court, 2011
14/14 Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito
Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito stand outside the rented house where 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher was found dead in Perugia, 2007
This decision, which could be made on Wednesday, will have significant global consequences because if Italy decides to definitively confirm Knox’s conviction and prison sentence, it would seem the US will have little choice but to extradite her.
Knox - whose engagement to childhood friend and Seattle-based musician Colin Sutherland was reported last month - has already said she would have to be dragged “kicking and screaming” back to Italy.
Attempting to live a normal life since returning to Seattle, Knox started working as a freelance journalist reporting for her local paper, the West Seattle Herald, last year.
Many factors will contribute to the final decision and issues outside of the trial, like a pregnancy or timing in relation to the upcoming American election, could also play a role.
But according to legal experts the final decision could ultimately hinge on relations and agreements between Rome and Washington DC.
The case has been long and complicated, with a series of drawn-out rulings, appeals and reversals that are common in the notoriously slow Italian justice system.
Knox and Sollecito were convicted of Meredith’s murder in 2009, then freed on appeal two years later because of doubts about the strength of the evidence.
Both Knox and Sollecito have always maintained their innocence.
That acquittal was then thrown out of court in 2013 because the appeals court was ruled to have been inconsistent in its assessment of the evidence.
A year later, after a retrial, the pair were again found guilty of murder, with Knox sentenced to 28 and a half years in prison, and Sollecito to 25 years.
Under Italian law, that decision will not be considered final unless it is upheld by the court in its ruling this week.
That is why Knox has been able to live freely in the US, even though she is currently considered guilty of murder in Italy.
Sollecito is also free in Italy right now, but would be arrested immediately if the conviction were upheld.
If it does not uphold the conviction, the court could also decide to send one or both defendants back to trial, but it does not have the power to acquit Knox or Sollecito outright.
Even if their convictions are upheld, nothing will happen immediately.
After the court releases its legal rationale for the decision – which could take up to 90 days – the Italian minister of justice would then have up to six months to determine whether to demand Knox’s return from the US.
If such a request was made, the US would technically have to abide by it under the strict terms of an extradition treaty between the countries.
Steve Clemons, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and foreign policy expert, said: “If the Italian supreme court sustains the conviction, it will be nearly impossible for the US – despite the political uproar that will occur among those who believe she is innocent – not to extradite her to Italy.
“Emotions may run high, but in the end the relations between Italy and the US are deep, strategic, complex, and are designed to respect each other’s laws, even in controversial cases.”
It is far from clear on what grounds the US government could ultimately challenge a legal request.
Double-jeopardy - or being tried twice for the same crime, which is prohibited in US law - is a term that does not apply to the Italian judicial system and legal experts flatly reject that argument.
They say Knox and Sollecito are not being tried multiple times for the same crime - they are still being tried for the same crime almost eight years after it happened.
Under US law, if an extradition request is made, it would be looked at closely by the State Department and then the Justice Department, and would then have to be approved by a US court, where Knox could appeal the extradition.
The State Department is yet to comment on whether it would send Knox back to Italy, but legal experts suggest any extradition would take a long time, if it was enforced at all.
But if the courts approve of the request, the final decision rests with the US secretary of state, John Kerry.
For now, we wait until March 25 to see if the Italian high court will decide to uphold the latest conviction or throw the case back into the system.Reuse content