New Amanda Knox book promises to
unravel mysteries

By Steve Shay April 16, 2010

Seattle journalist Candace Dempsey gave the West Seattle Herald her first interview for “MURDER IN ITALY: Meredith Kercher, Amanda Knox and the Trial that Shocked the World."  Penguin.

The book examines West Seattle UW student Amanda Knox, the British roommate in Italy she was found guilty of murdering her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, and the real life drama that played out in the courtroom and behind the scenes, as she sees it.

An award-winning, Italian-American journalist, Dempsey writes the blog “Italian Women at the Table” which appears online in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. She has never been an employee of the PI.

How did you become interested in the case of Meredith Kercher’s murder?

“I started a blog on the PI site to examine the Italian culture. I grew up Italian-American, often visit relatives in Italy and am fascinated with the Old Country. But very soon into the blog I started to write about the Knox case and became obsessed with it.

Was writing Murder in Italy stressful?

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve done. The case has to be covered both in Seattle and Perugia, which is very expensive. The documents are in a foreign language. Luckily, I have a lot of Italian sources who helped me a great deal. And my editor at Penguin, Shannon Jamieson Vazquez, is Italian-American and fluent in the language.”

Is your book accessible to those who have not followed the case?

“Yes. MURDER IN ITALY is a complete true crime book. It begins on Halloween, 2007, the night before Meredith was murdered and follows the story until Amanda and her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, are convicted. I examine all the evidence as it comes before the court, and show Amanda’s behavior from an Italian perspective. I follow the two beautiful students from when they were happy young women enjoying a dream trip abroad, a dream many of us have had, to the nightmare ending. The Italian public and press call it the ‘Meredith Mystery.’ We call it the ‘Amanda Knox case.’”

How much access did you have to those involved in the case?

“No one was allowed to interview Amanda, Raffaele, or Rudy Guede, the three charged with Meredith’s murder. I had the cooperation of the Knox family and interviewed all of them in Perugia and in Seattle, plus Amanda's friends in Seattle. I would come early to court, which usually started at around 10am. Curt (Amanda’s father), especially, would come out and talk to the press, and other family members would often talk to me and others after court. I also talked to key players for the prosecution and defense, including lawyers for Raffaele Sollecito and Rudy Guede (co-defendants) and the Kercher family. 

“Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini allowed me to interview him, but only if I did not quote him. He wanted to share his view of the case, partly because I was from Seattle, and he had this idea that people in Seattle thought he was this terrible person. He is a cultured man and in person can be very likable. Oggi magazine described him as a little bit Dr. Jekyll, a little bit Mr. Hyde because he’s very intimidating in court. His closing argument was savage.”

What makes you uniquely qualified to write a book on this topic that so many have examined?

“I covered this case from the very beginning on my blog. I live in Seattle, Amanda Knox’s hometown, and traveled frequently to Perugia to cover the hearings. I am Italian-American, which is crucial to this case. I understand the Italian culture and have deep roots in the ‘Old Country.’ And I understand Seattle’s quirky counterculture. The contrast between those two cultures played out in court to a great extent, especially in the way Amanda Knox’s behavior was perceived. The differences are startling. ”

Do you speak Italian?

“I can speak and read Italian, but not like a native. I relied on trial transcripts, not my notes, when I was writing Murder in Italy. I usually sat with the Italian reporters and even they had trouble at times understanding testimony. Witnesses have different accents and dialects depending on where they’re from in Italy. My family comes from the South of Italy, so I could understand Meredith’s Italian boyfriend, Giacomo Silenzi, pretty easily. Some of the Italian reporters found him incomprehensible.”

A lot has been said about Amanda being pretty. What effect did that have on the jury, the press, and world opinion?

“No question her looks played a huge role. She has the all-American college girl look which makes it very interesting for Italian and English reporters. She looks like a pretty girl from an American film. She doesn’t look like a killer. That was the fascination, the difference between how she looked, and the crime she was charged with. But you’d have to ask the jurors if her being beautiful influenced their guilty verdict.”

If I were to read MURDER IN ITALY would I come away believing Amanda was innocent or guilty?

“If I did my job right you would come to your own decision. I present enough facts on both sides of the issue so you can make up your own mind. My book is different than my blog. On my blog I am reacting to the day’s news. In my book I’m stepping way back and telling you a story. I don’t stop to argue every point. I want you to follow me on this trip to Italy You can be that ‘thirteenth juror,’ even though in Italy there were only six.”

What surprised you about the Dec. 4 jury verdict?

“Well, we didn’t hear the jury’s motivations until the judge’s (motivation) report was released 90 days after the verdict. I was very surprised. In the closing arguments lawyers called Amanda a “she-devil” and the prosecutor made her sound like evil personified. However, the jurors departed from Mignini and said that she and Raffaele had solid support from their families, and that they were both good students and had no animosity toward the victim. The jurors believed they could have done the crime because they believed on any given night anything is possible. One juror compared (the murder) to a drunk driving accident. I don’t agree, but that’s what the juror said.

“Unlike Mignini, who placed Amanda at the center of the crime, the jury placed Rudy Guede in the role of instigator. He got 16 years. She got 26. So it’s very possible she’ll get years taken off her sentence after her appeal. In any case, I will have to add to the book. There’s always some new twist. It’s never done.”

Candace Dempsey will appear May 27 at the University of Washington Bookstore, and said she chose that store because Amanda went to school there and lived nearby. In fact, Amanda is still is a UW student, completing coursework in her cell.