Would the United States extradite Amanda Knox to Italy, where an
Italian court found her guilty Thursday of murdering Briton Meredith Kercher? U.S. officials may never have to decide, a legal expert said Saturday.
"I think we have a hint from Italy that they may not seek her extradition," Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz told CNN. "Look, they let her go back to the United States, even though the case was then pending, knowing that it would be very difficult to get her back in Italy, so the Italian government may be satisfied with convicting her and then letting her spend the rest of her life in the United States -- not able to travel to Europe or to Italy, so it may resolve itself that way."
Still, if the conviction is upheld on appeal, if there are no clear violations of due process and if no new compelling evidence is submitted, the case should be treated routinely, Dershowitz said.
In other words, Knox should be treated an ordinary person, the Harvard law professor added.
And if an extradition request is made, the United States would likely comply, according to Dershowitz.
"The Italian legal system, though I don't love it, is a legitimate legal system and we have a treaty with Italy so I don't see how we would resist," he told Agence France Presse.
Citing privacy and confidentiality concerns, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf declined to say whether Italy has requested that Knox be extradited.
Knox and her former boyfriend, Italian Raffaele Sollecito, were found guilty Thursday of the 2007 murder of Kercher.
Prosecutors say Kercher was held down and stabbed after she rejected attempts by Knox, Sollecito and another man, Ivory Coast-born Rudy Guede, to involve her in a sex game. Guede is in jail for the killing.
In the conviction, which reversed an earlier appeal judgment, Sollecito was sentenced to 25 years in prison; Knox, who is a student at the University of Washington and did not attend the trial, was sentenced in absentia to 28-1/2 years.
Knox lawyer Theodore Simon told CNN on Friday that his client has received "an incredible outpouring" of support, and that the evidence against his client was non-existent.
"There is absolutely no evidence today, there was no evidence before and there never will be any evidence of her guilt," he said.
Asked whether he believes the U.S. government would honor an extradition request from Italy, if one were issued, Simon noted that at least one appeal and other legal issues remain before that would be an issue.
"It's really not a question that is an issue today or tomorrow or for a long time to come," he said. "It's really not right for consideration, and I wouldn't comment on that at this time."
CNN Legal Analyst Paul Callan agreed that there is a long road ahead for Knox.
"More time for her hair to grow out," he said Friday. "She is sporting a new hairdo, I don't know if you noticed that yesterday, in what I think is a public relations effort to sort of humanize Amanda Knox and keep that high public opinion poll that out there for her."
That public opinion has been shaped by largely positive media coverage of the case in the United States, according to Dershowitz.
One example of apparent media sympathy, if not support, is a photograph published Saturday in the New York Times showing ABC Anchor Robin Roberts holding the hand of the 26-year-old convicted murderer. "We wish you the best, going forward," Roberts told Knox at the end of a teary interview.
"I don't know why public opinion is so supportive of her innocence," said Dershowitz, who described the circumstantial case against Knox as compelling, though not overwhelming.
"This is not a case, as it's been projected in the media, of no evidence at all. It's a case of the kind that would have resulted probably in a conviction in most courts in America. And so yet, because she is attractive, and because she has created a media campaign all over the country, she's become very popular. And I don't think we should do justice by popularity or justice by the way a person looks. This is a case for extradition."
The victim, he said, has largely been ignored by the American media, which has been supportive of Knox.
"In Italy, it's exactly the opposite. In Italy, she's Al Capone, she's the worst murderer in history."
Kercher's brother, Lyle, told reporters on Friday that he expected Italy would file an extradition request if the Supreme Court upholds Thursday's ruling by the lower court. "In as much as, yes, if somebody's found guilty -- and this would go for anybody -- if somebody's found guilty and convicted of a murder."
He added, "I don't see why they wouldn't."
Dershowitz told CNN last March that, if an extradition request is made and Knox somehow avoids being sent back, "she remains a prisoner in the United States, because Interpol will put a warrant out for her and, if she travels anywhere outside the United States, she'll be immediately arrested and turned over to Italy."