Amanda Knox's Chances of Suing Italian Prosecutors Would Be Better If She Wasn't American

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The only charge that the Italian appeals court held up after Amanda Knox's murder conviction was overturned was the crime of defamation stemming from when Knox falsely accused bar owner Patrick Lumumba of being the murderer who killed Meredith Kercher. For that Knox was sentenced to three years in prison and fined more than $16,000.

So who goes to jail now that it's clear Knox was falsely accused of murder by Italian prosecutors? The answer is "no one." And a local attorney who's well versed in Italian law her chances of suing anyone are slim--though if she wasn't American that might be another story.

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Bruce Johnson
Bruce E. H. Johnson, attorney with Davis Wright Tremaine, says that it is possible for Knox to sue Italian prosecutors for essentially robbing her of the last four years of her life--it would actually be a criminal proceeding in Italy, not civil. Doing so, however, would be tricky.

"If she could find a prosecutor that was willing to go against another magistrate, it's possible," Johnson says. "But that's difficult for three reasons. First: If I was her I wouldn't go back to Italy for a long, long time. Second: She's unlikely to find a prosecutor who will prosecute any other prosecutor. Third: Any case like that would have to be initiated privately."

Johnson notes that while Knox's freedom has been greeted joyously by many Americans, particularly in Seattle, that public opinion is far different in Italy.

"You had people cursing [Knox] in the streets," Johnson says. "Finding someone to stand up to that public opinion would be hard."

Interestingly, if Knox weren't American she might have some legal recourse under an obscure law called the Alien Tort Claims Act. Under this law, which dates back to 1789, foreign nationals can sue people in other countries for violating international law--most often in cases of torture.

An example of this law would be the case of Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, in which two Paraguayan citizens were able to sue a former police chief, who had moved to the United States, for torturing them in Paraguay.

In Knox's case, she had long accused Italian authorities of beating her during an interview and depriving her of water, food, and sleep. Johnson says that if Knox weren't American, she might be able claim those actions were torture and to sue under this law.

But Knox, of course, is American. So her recourse is limited to either showing back up in Italy with a ballsy lawyer, or going down the easier road: a book/movie deal.

"If I were Knox, I'd work on whittling down my $1 million in attorneys' fees before I hired more lawyers," says Johnson, in a seemingly shocking statement from a lawyer. "A book deal or a movie deal would certainly do that."

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