This is not justice

0930-Amanda-Knox_full_380So, Amanda Knox is guilty? Again? It does seem odd that prosecutors can appeal against acquittal and that the sentence now – 28½ years – is longer than the original 26 years. What has happened over the intervening time to make the crime worse than it was before?

Observing the different handling of the case by British and American media is instructive. (Sadly your columnist does not read Italian, or not beyond the level of a menu). Both countries are somewhat partisan: the US for the accused, Knox, and the British more for the British victim, Meredith Kercher. Support for Knox has been particularly strong in her native Washington State. 

But, partisanship aside, this column has been left with serious concerns about the Italian trial process. While unwilling to join the group “Friends of Amanda” – by her own account, Knox does not emerge as a very sympathetic character – your columnist is not convinced of the justice of this conviction.

Aside from the strange procedure in which a trial court found her guilty, an appeal court overturned this, and then the supreme court overturned the appeal, the process seems flawed.

Knox and her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito faced two simultaneous trials. They faced criminal trial for the murder or Kercher and a civil trial in which they were obliged to compensate Patrick Lumpana, the man first (and, seemingly, wrongly) suspected of Kercher’s murder.

Criminal and civil trials are kept separate for a reason. They judge evidence to different standards. O J Simpson was famously found guilty of murdering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman at a civil trial having been acquitted in a criminal court. On the balance of probability the second court found he was guilty but the first declined to make that finding beyond reasonable doubt. Fair enough. There must be numerous cases where the evidence is good enough to lead people to think that someone probably did it but without the certainty required in criminal law.

But there is another critical factor. Evidence that would be ruled inadmissible in a criminal case is sometimes admitted at a civil trial. It is ridiculous to conduct these two trials simultaneously before the same jury. You cannot expect a jury to receive evidence and then discount it for one purpose but not for another. This is grossly prejudicial. 

So, should an American court agree to extradite Knox to Italy? This has to be a marginal case. Extradition treaties necessarily involve accepting the judicial processes of another country, but most advanced liberal democracies are willing to maintain such arrangements with other liberal democracies. The Italian processes may be flawed, but this is not Iran or Syria.

On balance, this columnist would argue that in this case extradition should not be agreed. Both the breach of natural justice involved in presenting prejudicial evidence and the breach of double jeopardy involved in appealing the acquittal would seem to put this outside of any legal proceeding that an American court could accept as just. 

The President and Senate simply do not have the power to agree a treaty which abrogates the natural rights of American citizens. For this reason, neither the executive nor judicial branches should acquiesce to this extradition.

This leaves the Kercher family without resolution or closure. Their complaint is with the Italian judiciary. Or they could bring action against Knox in America

 

Quentin Langley is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Bedfordshire Business School as well as a freelance columnist published in the UK and all parts of the US. He blogs on social media and crisis communications at brandjacknews.com

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