MURDER IN ITALY (Penguin/Berkley Books) received the Best True Crime Book of 2010 Editor’s Choice Award and Best True Crime Book of 2010 Reader’s Choice Awards. We are very pleased to have author Candace Dempsey visit Madame Perry's Salon.
Jennifer Perry: Welcome to Madame Perry’s Salon, Candace. We are joined by my friend, Atlanta broadcast professional Joy Barge. We are so delighted that you could make time to talk with us.
As I told you before, many times I passed your book MURDER IN ITALY as I scoured the true crime shelves at bookstores. Having bought the sensational media and legal conviction of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for the horrible murder of Meredith Kercher, I didn’t think my opinion could be swayed. Then I bought your book, and was absolutely amazed.
Please tell us how you came to be covering the story, and how you were able to get such a close up view of the proceedings?
Candace Dempsey: The Amanda Knox case has beautiful people, sex, drugs, Italy, a hilltop college town, tragedy. A real-life murder mystery. For me, it’s a natural. I’m an Italian-American journalist from Seattle, Amanda’s hometown. I have many sources there and in Italy, where I flew for trial and interviews. I know Italy well, because I have family there.
In fact, I’d just returned from Rome in 2007 when I heard a British student had been murdered in Perugia, Seattle’s sister city, and that the main suspect was Amanda, an honor student from the University of Washington in Seattle. Meredith Kercher’s stabbing was so sad, tragic and ironic. I had to write about it on my seattlepi.com blog.
Joy Barge: For some reason, the first time I saw this story I didn't believe Amanda Knox was guilty. It seemed from the start a sort of media hysteria. I tried to imagine what it would be like to be in another country accused of such a heinous crime. When did your opinion about the case begin to change?
|Author Candace Dempsey|
Even prestigious newspapers like The Times of London simply typed up whatever police or prosecutors leaked on a given day - no matter how illogical or nonsensical. That certainly made me wonder if Amanda could be innocent.
Perry: It seems that Kercher and Knox met because they both responded to a billboard notice seeking roommates, and knew each other only a few weeks before the murder. Knox was with her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito that night anyway. Did it seem this was just disregarded in favor of sensational headlines?
Dempsey: Yes, the roommates shared quarters little more than a month. Nobody knew anybody very well. Meredith’s British friends described Amanda harshly in court, but most of them had met her only once—at the police station after the murder. They became suspicious only after her arrest.
Barge: Do you think Amanda Fox was so targeted by Italian authorities and the media because she is American? Did that have any bearing on her case?
There’s also hypocrisy. Perugia’s been called a “Disneyland of drugs” and prostitution thrives there, but you’d think Amanda invented marijuana and premarital sex. The prosecutor was fixated on vibrator and condoms. Very few of Perugia’s 40,000 college students are American. Perugia has serious crime problems that we didn’t cause.
Perry: The Kercher family seemed convinced of Knox’s guilt. Their grief and heartbreak is certainly painful. Do they seem at all swayed by the information brought to light in your book?
Dempsey: Victim’s families usually side with the prosecution. They need to trust someone. We’re all looking at the same facts. I doubt they’ve read my book.
Barge: Amanda and her family were recently in the news again on new charges. What do you think about this? Are you in touch with her family at all?
Dempsey: Yes, I’m in touch with Amanda’s family. They’re accessible to journalists. Yes, she’s in court all the time. Her 26-year murder conviction is on appeal. She and her parents are also being tried for slander. Twelve police offers have brought charges against her because she said an officer hit her twice during an all-night interrogation. Her parents are being tried simply for telling a reporter what Amanda said about the hitting.
Police refuse to provide videotapes, audio or even transcript of that interrogation. So it’s a police said/they said. Amanda already has a 26-year sentence. To Americans, these new trials look like harassment, especially when the financially drained parents are hauled into court.
Whatever happens, I’ll cover every twist and turn in the Amanda Knox case on my blog.
Perry: I believe we all want true justice in this case, and for Meredith Kercher’s family and friends to find some peace and consolation after such a despicable tragedy.
Thank you for giving us so much of your time here, Candace, and for your excellent reporting of events. For both the Kercher and Knox families, it is vital that someone is diligently watching the developments with an interest in the truth.