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Knox Or Not: Plenty Of Cases Are Tried Without A Defendant


The following ran on the March 27, 2013, edition of National Public Radio. Law professor Chris Jenks provided expertise for this story.

March 27, 2013

by Alan Greenblatt

Amanda Knox may never again set foot in Italy. But that doesn't mean she won't face another trial there.

Courts around the world — particularly in Italy — have shown themselves willing to try people in absentia.

On Tuesday, Italy's top court ordered that Knox be retried on murder charges. Last month, an appeals court in Milan convicted a former CIA station chief and two other Americans of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric during an extraordinary rendition. Twenty-three other Americans involved in the case were convicted in absentia in 2009.

"It's common practice, not only in Europe," says Kurt Volker, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO who now runs an institute on international leadership at Arizona State University. "It's done when the defendant is not physically at hand, yet the legal outcome can be pursued."...

Trials held in absentia also may be conducted for political reasons, says Christopher Jenks, a former attorney with the Pentagon and State Department. Last year, for example, President George W. Bush and several members of his administration were convicted of war crimes in absentia in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur....

"While allowed, they're in essence more trouble than they're worth," says Jenks, now a law professor at Southern Methodist University. "In the vast majority of cases, you'd have to retry the person, if and when you find them."...


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