Amanda Knox's legal problems could last years if Italy seeks her extradition now that she's been found guilty a second time in the death of her college roommate in 2007 in Italy.
U.S. legal experts disagree on whether she can successfully fight an attempt by Italy to imprison her should she lose her final appeal in that country.
Paul Rothstein, who teaches criminal and constitutional law at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, says extradition is not automatic despite an extradition treaty between Italy and the United States.
"There's always an escape hatch if the proceedings there are considered unfair or there's some other reason for not extraditing," Rothstein said.
"In my opinion, the proceedings in Italy did not meet even fundamental standards of fairness," Rothstein said.
The Italian prosecutor had a history of proceeding in cases that were baseless, some evidence was not considered, and DNA evidence was inconclusive and not to U.S. standards, Rothstein said.
Since Knox's first conviction was vacated on appeal, U.S. officials may consider the case in light of the U.S. prohibition on double jeopardy, or being tried twice for the same crime, he said.
"There would be considerable attention to the double jeopardy problem," Rothstein said.
Washington defense lawyer Ty Cobb, who handled Italian extradition requests as a federal prosecutor, disagrees. Knox's case has followed the standard process in European courts, which are generally accepted in the USA, Cobb said.
"There is no double jeopardy issue," he said, because that rule applies only to previous convictions in U.S. courts. "Since the U.S. didn't reach a verdict here, it's not really a consideration. Every time this has been heard by a trial court, (Knox) was convicted."
Knox, who was in Seattle when the court verdict was reached Thursday, was sentenced to 28½ years in the murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher in 2007.
Knox and Kercher shared a home in Perugia, an Italian university town. The 21-year-old's throat had been slashed, and there was evidence she had been raped.
Prosecutors allege Kercher, 21, was killed in a sex and drug game with a drifter, Knox and Knox's former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito. Knox and Sollecito call the story a lie and say they weren't in the house when Kercher was killed.
DNA evidence at the home implicated an Ivory Coast drifter, Rudy Guede, who was convicted in the case and is serving a 16-year sentence. Knox's defense lawyers say that Guede was the sole killer but that he implicated Knox, then 20, at the urging of prosecutors who promised him a lesser sentence.
Knox and Sollecito were found guilty in 2009 and jailed but cleared in 2011 after a hearing revealed that police had tainted much of the critical evidence in the case and that DNA evidence was handled improperly. Experts determined that the kitchen knife prosecutors said was the murder weapon contained no blood or DNA from Kercher.
Both Knox and Sollecito were released after spending four years in prison.
Italy's highest court — called the Court of Cassation — dismissed the acquittal based on what it said was key evidence that had been omitted during the appeal. The court ordered a new trial, which concluded Thursday with a restoration of the conviction.
If Knox appeals, she would have to turn to the Court of Cassation again. If she loses, Italy can request that the United States turn her over to serve her sentence. Cobb says Italian prosecutors would wait until the conviction is final and faces no more appeals in Italian courts.
If that happens, Italy's court must submit an extradition request to Italy's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which would make the official request to the U.S. State Department through the Italian Embassy in Washington, according to a Justice Department description of the process.
State would forward the request to the Office of International Affairs at the Justice Department's Criminal Division. After making sure documents provided by Italy support the request, a federal prosecutor could seek an arrest warrant, and Knox would be brought before a federal magistrate for a hearing to determine whether the fugitive is extraditable.
Knox's lawyers could try to challenge her extradition at this point.
If the court found the fugitive to be extraditable, notice would be sent to the secretary of State, who would decide whether to surrender the fugitive to the requesting government, according to the Justice Department description.
The verdict means Knox is at risk of being grabbed by authorities in any country she visits that has an extradition treaty with Italy. If Italy learned of her whereabouts, it could lodge an immediate request of that country to detain her. And a foreign country may not have the same legal protections as the USA.
"She can be arrested anywhere outside the United States where they have an extradition treaty with Italy," Cobb said.