Monday, October 10, 2011

Other Americans Italy Should Send Home

Abraham Anhang
Abraham Anhang
 Retired Lawyer 
The Huffington Post
This week, Americans cheered as Amanda Knox was acquitted and her family closed the book on years of grueling uncertainty. Miss Knox's acquittal has been lauded as the achievement of justice in a fraught Italian legal system. But my family still struggles with the injustice of that system.

Six years ago, my son Adam was brutally murdered in Puerto Rico. The motive was clear: Adam, a successful businessman, was in the process of divorcing his wife, Aurea Vazquez Rijos. Their prenuptial agreement made Aurea a wealthier woman if she was widowed than if she was divorced.

A careful investigation by the FBI and the Justice Department pinpointed the hit man and put him away for life. He confessed that Aurea had offered him a large sum of money to kill Adam. Aurea was indicted for murder-for-hire, a capital offence.

Unfortunately, by that time, Aurea had fled to Italy, where she lives openly and without fear of arrest. In order to show respect for the sanctity of life, Italy refuses to extradite murderers who are eligible for capital punishment in the United States -- even if the United States agrees not to seek the death penalty.

Ironically and tragically, Italy's concern for the sanctity of life has made it a safe haven for murderers. Aurea and an unknowable number of others like her can live out their days in comfort, with little chance of ever entering American courtrooms to face the charges against them.

And my family and others like mine -- who must endure the extraordinary grief of losing a loved one to human hands -- are unable to achieve the closure of seeing the killers of our sons and daughters brought to justice. Italy could maintain its ideological opposition to the death penalty while still bringing murderers like Aurea to justice. It could act as my home country of Canada does, and extradite the fugitives to the United States in exchange for assurances that the United States would not seek the death penalty in their cases. Or it could elect to try capital offense fugitives in its own courts.
This week marked a victory over injustice for one family trapped by the Italian legal system. But the anguished families of murder victims are still waiting for justice.