01/31/2014 at 03:50 PM EST
Amid debate over whether Amanda Knox
could face extradition to Italy following her second conviction
for the 2007 murder of her roommate, her defense attorney says the case is far from over and that answer is far from clear.
"I can understand that people are discussing it as a question," says Philadelphia attorney Theodore Simon. "But it is not a question or issue for today or tomorrow or for a very long time."
"Under Italian law, even though she was convicted, she's still presumed innocent until the appeal to the Supreme Court of Italy." He adds: "We will make every effort and take every available step to challenge this wrongful conviction."
Others take a different view while waiting for the Italian appellate court to put its guilty verdict in writing and start the appeal anew.
"She's convicted of murder, but she's not a fugitive. She's free to do whatever she wants right now," says says Julian Ku, a law professor at Hofstra University and expert on international law. But, he adds: "The Italian government could at any point ask for her detention and her extradition. It's my view that they would have a good chance of getting her if they asked."
Knox, of Seattle, Wash., and her ex-boyfriend, Italian Rafaelle Sollecito, were convicted in 2009 for the murder of Meredith Kercher and spent four years in prison before a higher court voided the conviction in 2011. But the case was returned to the appellate level, where a jury reviewed old and new testimony and a judge yesterday sentenced Knox again – this time for 28 ½ years, while Sollecito was given 26 years.
Although Sollecito sat through much of the court proceedings up until yesterday's verdict, Knox stayed home, fearing what she described as a repeat "wrongful prosecution."
No warrants were issued for their arrest, and the judge deemed neither a flight risk. But Ku says a treaty between the two countries might make it tough for the United States to say no if Italy requests that Knox be turned over to serve any sentence
"She's probably got another year at least to see what happens" while an appeal plays out, Ku says. And while Knox could challenge any request from Italian authorities for extradition, it's ultimately up to the U.S. State Department to say yes or no.
"The State Department will want to turn her over because they're the ones who are going to have to ask Italy for people that the U.S. wants to charge," says Ku. "And so if they don't turn Knox over, then the Italians will rightly say, why should we turn anyone over to you if you won't turn Knox over to us?"
He notes, however, that Knox has strong belief in her innocence here at home. "That may matter," he says.
Indeed, it matters to Knox's defense attorney.
"She recognizes there's no consolation for the Kercher family," says Simon. "Their grief over Meredith's murder will follow them forever. But she also clearly and personally understands that a wrongful conviction is horrific for the wrongfully accused."