As you probably know by now, the original 2009 conviction of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for the murder of Meredith Kercher has been confirmed. Knox’s sentence was increased to 28 years and six months. Sollecito was sentenced to 25 years in jail.
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Here’s what I believe will happen next
First the Italian court has 90 days to publish its verdict. Lawyers for Knox will then have 45 days to file an appeal.
The appellate court will review and then either quash or uphold the verdict. If upheld, then Italy’s supreme court would in all likelihood hear the case in April or May of 2015.
If Knox does not immediately return to Italy, extradition proceedings will be initiated and the Italian courts would serve notice that Knox is a person “unlawfully at large” and subject to immediate arrest and detention.
Italy will make a formal extradition request to the US State Department. Knox can challenge extradition in the US courts.
My personal thoughts are that just like the last time, the Knox verdict will be overturned on appeal. The lack of evidence and political influence will both come into play.
Having said that, if the verdict is upheld and extradition proceedings are initiated by Italy, I do not see the US State Department or US courts ordering or carrying out the extradition. I base my opinion on the concept of double jeopardy which means that in the US, a criminal defendant found not guilty of a crime may not be tried again for the same crime. I see the government respecting our Constitution and protecting its citizens and denying the extradition request.
Other Procedural Concerns with the Murder Trial
Rudy Guede is already in jail for committing this murder. His DNA and bloody handprints were all over the murder scene. At one time he confessed to the crime.
There is no DNA or prints connecting Knox or Sollecito to the crime scene. There is no evidence of a motive. Despite the evidence and confession of Guede and complete lack of evidence against Knox and Sollecito, Italian prosecutors “think” Knox and Sollecito must have been involved in the murder. I’ll save my analysis of the evidence, or lack thereof, for another post.
Here I want to talk about the procedural issues with how murder cases are handled in Italy.
For starters, in the Knox case the jury was not sequestered. While the case was going on the jurors were allowed to talk about the case and even follow the random and inaccurate press coverage on television, the internet and in the local newspapers and magazines. The jury was also allowed to visit and interact with the lawyers at local restaurants for lunch during the trial. They were seen having coffee and lunch at the same cafe’s as the trial lawyers and reporters.
In Italy, the civil trial for wrongful death money damages takes place at the same time as the murder trial. Evidence such as an illegal interrogation of Knox that was ruled inadmissible in the murder trial was allowed to be read to the jury in the civil trial. What this means is that although the Italian supreme court said certain evidence was inadmissible in the murder case, the jury heard it anyways.
Now here’s the part of Italian law that really drives me pazzesco (crazy)
In serious crimes such as the Knox murder trial, eight judges hear the case. Two are “professional” judges and the other six are lay judges. The lay judges are supposedly randomly selected citizens of the local town. Before being selected, they are not questioned by anyone including the prosecution or the defense.
One of the two professional judges is the lead judge in court. He runs the proceedings. He also is a member of the jury during deliberations. Both of the two professional judges also help and guide the jury through the facts of the case.
It is this last dynamic that is a huge issue for me. Having tried cases for 28 years, I know how influential, articulate and persuasive most judges are. When you put a judge with regular citizens on the jury, the judge will be the person of influence and directly or indirectly control the deliberations and outcome. Anyone who thinks otherwise is just being naive.
There’s one more little thing that should really give you pause. Unlike the US where a unanimous verdict is required, in Italy all you need is a simple majority. What this means is that the jury eight people I described above will be able to send you to prison for life with a simple 5-3 vote.
Please share your thoughts and comments below or on Twitter. What do you think should happen next?