Friends of Amanda Knox video: Candace Dempsey

Candace Dempsey

Candace Dempsey is a Seattleite who has been blogging in support of Amanda Knox since early 2008. She has also written a book outlining Knox’s innocence, Murder In Italy. Hers is the first presentation in the video Amanda Knox: The Case for Innocence, which you can view in my last post.

Given the forum and Dempsey’s strong opinion on the case, it is perhaps surprising that her presentation is, for the most part, factual and shouldn’t give those who believe Knox to be guilty too much cause for outrage.

There are, though, a couple of occasions where she crosses the line, I think. For example, she dramatically claims that Knox “was held under lock and key without charge for a whole year”. In fact, she was charged before ever being detained – I suspect Dempsey is getting confused between “charge” and “arraignment”. This seems like a bit of a throwback to the the Abu Ghraib-esque depiction of the Italian justice system formerly favoured by Knox’s supporters. Wisely and mercifully, that is something they tend now to distance themselves from.

Another thing that seems a bit misleading in her presentation is the repeated insinuation that Knox was prosecuted based on an improbable theory that she had killed Kercher during a sex orgy that got out of hand. Although there was some speculation about this in the media immediately following the murder, it was a theory that prosecutors swiftly and pointedly dispelled. I think it’s safe to say that this didn’t have anything to do with Knox’s eventual conviction.

Elsewhere, Dempsey does raise some fair points. In highlighting the embryonic nature of the relationships within the circle of foreign students around Knox and Kercher, she points us to something that is worth keeping in mind. Although some of Kercher’s friends testified that they found Knox’s behaviour following the murder suspicious, many of them had not really spoken to her beforehand. It may well be that they judged her unfairly in what were, after all, very unusual circumstances.

Although Dempsey’s presentation is, as might be expected, somewhat slanted so as to invoke sympathy for Knox, she doesn’t really bring out much that actually points to her innocence (although, in fairness, the hard evidence of the case is not part of her brief on this occasion). She highlights, for instance, the use of the “Foxy Knoxy” moniker in the British tabloid press following the murder. But, whilst this may have had a distorting effect on impressions of the case in Britain, it is far from clear that it is something that might have influenced the decision of the court in Italy.

Dempsey also seems strangely concerned about the unfairness of having multiple lawyers on the prosecution team during the trial, as if the interests of justice should require someone to shoulder the burden alone. Either there is something I am not understanding, or else her presentation is very much grasping at straws in its defence of Knox.


23 Responses to Friends of Amanda Knox video: Candace Dempsey

  1. Chris says:


    Amanda and Raffale actually were held a year without actual charges. Your arraignment discussion unfortunately doesn’t apply to the facts at hand. Different country, different system. In Italy you can be held a year without charges.

    • maundy says:

      Hi Chris.

      Of course, there are differences between procedures in Italy and elsewhere, but the idea that you can be held in Italy for a year without charges is simply not correct.

      In EU law, the definition of “charge” is “the official notification given to an individual by the competent authority of an allegation that he has committed a criminal offence” (Foti v Italy, 1982). I don’t think it can be easily disputed that this happened in Knox’s case on the morning of 6th November 2007, at which time she had not been detained at all.

      On 16th September and 28th October 2008, the three defendants in the case attended hearings which heard technical arguments, approved the case for procedure to trial and made a decision about the appropriate venue. In Italian, this is know simply as the “udienza preliminare”, but it is pretty much equivalent to a common law arraignment. It would be misleading to characterise it as a charging process.

      I think it’s important to be accurate about this type of thing, regardless of what your view of the case is. Floating voters, I think, will see good reason to treat statements such as “in Italy you can be held a year without charges” with suspicion. Obviously, this gives the impression that there is a denial of human rights, which has not been the case. And this will certainly make it hard to be taken seriously by an Italian audience, which is presumably something Friends of Amanda Knox would like to see happen.

  2. Maundy:

    Welcome to the Amanda Knox saga. I hope you keep an open mind as you develop your opinions on this intriguing but ultimately very simple case. First off, a couple of points;

    (1) Amanda Knox was in fact held for one year before being charged. This has never been a major complaint of the pro-Amanda camp. It is not unusual in other democracies for people to be held on suspicion of a crime. The progression of the case is not all that different from the US.
    (2) The motive as alleged by the prosecution has changed over time but yes the prosecutor did indeed claim in his final arguments that this was a sex orgy gone wrong. See the excellent New York Times piece by Tim Egan from Dec-09.

    I was there at the Seattle University event where Candace spoke. I would characterize her presentation as more introducing the story to the audience than the kind of hard core innocence arguments that followed with the other speakers. Her book is excellent and spell-binding but it doesn’t really make the case for innocence in the way that some others do. In her more recent commentary on the case she has shifted and does argue for innocence.

    I hope that you will take a close look at what experts are saying about the case. This was more than a miscarriage of justice; Amanda has been demonized by the tabloid press and framed by a corrupt judicial system in a small Italian University town. It’s that bad. And I am hardly alone in my opinions.

    Perhaps start with the big picture. This type of crime is invariably committed by a troubled male just like Rudy Guede. In those rare cases where there is female participation in a sexually motivated homicide, almost always you find a long-term dysfunctional relationship with a manipulative male and a woman who is an empty shell. The idea of a female ringleader – as very much alleged by the prosecution – would have no parallel in the history of crime.

    Rudy Guede left vast physical evidence at the crime scene; he flees; he has motive and defensive wounds; he has a history of knife violence and theft; he admits being there and he has a story that no one in their right mind would believe. He didn’t know the victim yet forensic evidence indicates his sexual penetration of her. He says it was consensual and that somebody else came in and killed where while he took a break in the bathroom – right. Raffaele didn’t know who he was; Amanda had seen him around, nothing more. She didn’t get together with him for a sex orgy and she didn’t stab Meredith because she refused sex with Rudy Guede. The whole thing is absurd.

    I wouldn’t say that Candace was grasping at straws. There are dozens of other commentators who are saying in no uncertain terms that Amanda was framed. Several of them spoke at the Seattle University event. There are many more.

    • maundy says:

      Hi Joseph.

      I don’t think the argument that Knox can’t be guilty simply because she “doesn’t fit the profile” is a very strong one. Female ringleaders (note, in any case, that Knox does not have to be a ringleader to be guilty, and she was not convicted as such) are certainly not unknown in the most horrendous of criminal acts. Judith Ann Neelley, Karla Fay Tucker and Myra Hindley are examples you might want to Google.

      • Joseph W Bishop says:

        (1)Karla Fay Tucker’s murder was not sexually motivated.
        (2) Both Judith Ann Neelley and Myra Hindley had long term dysfunctional relationships with evil manipulative males and lengthy histories of trouble starting in childhood.

        The arguemnt that she doesn’t fit the profile is only part of it. Always you go where the evidence takes you. Here the evidence is overwhelming against Rudy Guede. Troubled males murder young women in their prime every day somewhere around the world. There is no reason to believe that this crime was extraordinary.

  3. RoseMontague says:

    Others have already pointed out the held a year without charges information but I wanted to address the sex game theory. Minini did use this during his closing arguments and Massei subscribes to this theory as well.

    “After a heated discussion the three, under the influence of the drugs, and probably alcohol as well, decide to put into action the project they had of involving an extreme sex game,”

    Closing Arguments

    From the Massei report (PMF translation):

    A motive, therefore, of an erotic, sexually violent nature which, arising from
    the choice of evil made by Rudy, found active collaboration from Amanda Knox and
    Raffaele Sollecito.

    The other question about the lawyers is simply due to the Italian system of letting the civil trial run in conjunction with the criminal trial. For that reason both the lawyer for the Kercher’s as well as for Patrick got to actively argue for guilt along with Mignini and Comodi. The civil suit by Patrick also allowed the introduction of Amanda’s statements, the ones the Italian Supreme Court said could not be used against her in the criminal trial.

    • maundy says:

      Hi Rose.

      You are quite right about the scenario put forward by Giuliano Mignini about a plan to “punish” Meredith Kercher by luring her into a sex game (although I’m not sure where that blog got its translation – it’s not even grammatical). Personally, I think this scenario goes beyond the bounds of what might be said to be supported by evidence.

      It’s important to note that it isn’t a scenario that was accepted, in any event, by the court in the Knox and Sollecito trial, so it doesn’t actually form part of the basis on which they were convicted.

      What Candace Demspsey says in the video is quite specific, though, and it is not just a reflection of Mignini’s scenario. She shows a photo of Kercher’s bedroom, and comments: “you can see that it’s a very tiny room, and yet four people were supposed to have had a sex orgy here”.

      What took place in the room – whoever may or may not have been involved – was a sex attack. I don’t think that is disputed by anyone. There was no sex orgy, and not even Mignini suggests that there was.

  4. Grace says:

    Maundy, I know enough about this case to know that you don’t know what you are blabbering about. If you like to blabber please at least back up you blabber with some reliable sources.

  5. doug says:


    I’ve read Grace’s discussion on other boards. She only insults and attacks people who know that Amanda Knox is guilty because she cant debate the facts. Great blog by the way

  6. Nora says:

    Excellent blog, I follow this case for quite a while. I got to hear about it by accident, watching 48 hours mystery on a boring day. I was outraged by that show, i knew nothing about the case back then, but the show seemed so one sided and biased that it angered me. So i started searching more info about the case. What amazed me was that the only english sites i could find except truejustice and PMF were clearly sponsored by Knox family. I’ve read the judges reports on the case and a few italian articles (my native tongue is very similar to italian so i understand it quite well). Keep up the good work :))
    P.S. Don’t let the frenzied FOA get you down, they post the same nonsense on all sites and blogs that present the whole truth, not only their one sided bed time story

  7. Alberto Stasi was free during the course of his trial. According to a manuscript by Benjamin Sayagh, Amanda and Raffaele were held under “Italian precautionary detention laws, which permit an Italian magistrate judge to imprison criminal suspects without charging them with any crimes while they investigate the matter further.” These laws (“custodia cautelare”) are supposed to be used when there are grave indications of guilt, when the suspect may tamper with evidence, try to escape, or to commit more crimes. Mr. Sayagh argues in his manuscript “Arrested Abroad” that the law was applied wrongly to Amanda. By extension, it made even less sense to apply it to Raffaele, who could not be as plausibly argued was a flight risk.

  8. maundy,
    Benjamin Sayagh was a law student at George Washington University when he wrote that (not an undergraduate), and this university has one of the top rated international law programs in the country. He recently was admitted to the bar in New York, IIRC. Can you refute his arguments?

  9. I am not sure what your position is. Is it that the precautionary detention law was not invoked, or is it that it was invoked but this raises no serious legal concerns?

    • maundy says:

      All I can find out about Sayagh is that he does exist, that he graduated in 2010 and has no publications on the Lexis database, although it’s far from exhaustive for US journals.

      Sayagh’s actual paper is, IMO, particularly poor as a resource, because it attempts to arrive at a position regarding Italian Human Rights law without considering any Italian caselaw whatsoever, only statutes and (mostly American) newspaper articles about the Kercher case.

      His legal argument, such as it is, seems to be twofold. Firstly that there was not much evidence against Knox. As we know, this is a matter of opinion and, whatever else we know, we know that it has not been the opinion of Italian judges. So we can hardly expect them to have acted on that basis. Secondly, that Knox should have been bailed because European law makes it hard to get pre-trial detention in cases of murder. I’d say you don’t need much of a legal brain to realise that this is nonsense.

      Knox stood accused of a particularly brutal murder with no apparent manslaughter defence (so, translating roughly, a first degree homicide) and the fact that she was a foreign national with no ties to the country increased the risk of her absconding. It’s obvious why she was not bailed.

      Besides which, Knox and Sollecito have between them some of the best defence lawyers in Italy. I don’t think it is likely that Sayagh is likely to have spotted anything they didn’t.

      • Jeff says:

        Italy is a civil law country – case law is not law, which is a difference from common law countries, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, where judicial opinions have the force of precedent. Sayagh’s paper cites a lot of Italian newspapers actually, in addition to a number of European Court of Human Rights cases – which is where the argument lies.

        A few other comments to your post: 1) Manslaughter is not a defense to murder. It”s a lesser charge, as compared with “self-defense” or “insanity”; 2) Bail is used when a party is charged with a crime and is awaiting trial. Human Rights law doesn’t really come into play in that situation. In this case, Amanda was awaiting charges, not trial – being “bailed” isn’t part of the paper’s argument.

      • maundy says:

        Sayagh’s argument appears to run something like: Italian statute says you need strong evidence (“grave indications”) against someone to deny them bail. Having looked at newspaper reports, he takes the view that the evidence was not strong enough. What’s missing is any investigation as to what standard Italian courts tend to go for in terms of “grave indication”. That the Common Law system of precedent doesn’t apply to Italy doesn’t excuse this. There will still be developed standards on this question. What are they? And, how can it be that there was enough evidence to convict them under Italian law but, it is contended, not enough to deny bail? This makes no sense, but it is not a question that the essay explores.

        On less important points: yes, manslaughter is effectively a defence to murder in most of Europe. This happens where partial defences are introduced. Depending on jurisdiction, these can include, for example, diminished responsibility, provocation or the consent of the victim. If you successfully argue these types of defence on a murder charge, you will end up being convicted of the lesser offence of manslaughter. You’re misunderstanding the point about bail. I think you’re trying to examine an Italian case as if it had happened in America. European law has a specific definition of “charge”, as I explained in the second comment of this thread. If you want to argue about the legality of Knox’s detention under EU law, you need to apply this definition, not an American one. Charge happens when a person is told they are suspected of a crime. Knox was told this before she was detained, so she was not awaiting charge during her detention.

      • Maundy, Knox and Sollecito were held from November of 2007 to October of 2008, at which point they came before Judge Micheli, who ruled that they must stand trial. That lengthy a period would not have been possible except for the precautionary detention law, IIUC. This is in stark contrast to others, such as Alberto Stasi. Some people even remain free after the trial of first instance finds them guilty.

        I also think you are not characterizing Mr. Sayagh’s arguments correctly. He wrote, “The intermediate court’s opinion appears heavily-influenced by Amanda’s behavior after Meredith’s death, public opinion of Amanda’s lifestyle and the judge’s own moral approbation.91 It calls Amanda ‘histrionic’, states that she had never displayed grief at the murder of her roommate, and is a ‘restless person who does not disdain multiple frequentations’ – i.e. she sleeps around.92 Most importantly, the court also found the requisite ‘grave indications’ necessary under precautionary detention laws that Amanda, Sollecito and Guede had committed a ‘group homicide’ and that she was a danger to the public to commit more violence.93” The court’s reasoning is suspect. First, it has its facts wrong. Amanda cried on multiple occasions over Meredith’s death. She had an intimate life that was normal for someone her age. Second, it is a bunch of sexist drivel.

      • Let us look at some of the “grave indications” of guilt. Mr. Sayagh wrote of the court, “The knife found in Sollecito’s house was also found compatible with the murder, and Amanda’s alibi of having spent the night at Sollecito’s was suspicious because the
        Harry Potter book she claimed to have read there turned up in her own bedroom.96″ The knife was not compatible with at least one, probably two, of the three major wounds, and any knife could have made the third. There were actually two Harry Potter books (one at each apartment), and the police were aware of this fact. The DNA on the knife and bra clasp are so hotly contested that it would be risible to contend that they are grave indications.

      • maundy says:

        Chris, the bottom line there is that, whilst anyone can argue that the evidence against Knox and Sollecito was not “grave” (without offering explanation as to what standard “grave” normally represents in Italian courts), the evidence was sufficient, rightly or wrongly, to convict at first instance. That must surely equal “grave” (?). It seems fairly obvious to me that, in terms of granting bail, you can’t reject evidence purely on the grounds that it is “hotly contested”. At that stage, the job is to make a determination as to whether there it is reasonable to suppose there is a risk to the public or the execution of justice, not to determine guilt or innocence.

        BTW, to consider Knox’s sex life important in that consideration would indeed be “sexist drivel”, but I don’t think that has happened at any stage in the case.

  10. Maundy, One of Knox’s attorneys was a commercial lawyer, and Bongiorno had other things on her plate. The notion that this was a legal dream team does not bear up under scrutiny. I also disagree with your characterization of Mr. Sayagh’s arguments. He wrote, “Amanda’s flirtatious behavior and alleged promiscuity are simply not a ‘grave’ indication of her potential guilt. That the appellate court even discussed her behavior with men suggests they were influenced by her characterization in the press, and may not have evaluated the evidence objectively.” The pretrial publicity is one of the central issues in the whole case, IMO, and the police leaked a number of falsehoods to poison the atmosphere against Knox further.

    The only evidence that can be argued to put Amanda in Meredith’s room is the knife, and it is problematic both with respect to the DNA forensics and to its size versus the nature of the wounds. Finally, although Meredith’s death was a tragedy, I do not see why you label it as being particularly brutal.

  11. (1) I don’t agree with your understanding of the word “grave.” If it were, then everyone who ultimately is convicted should have been incarcerated (detained) before even being indicted, according to this logic. Grave must mean something extraordinary (I would think it means well beyond 50% certainty). (2) It doesn’t appear to me that you have ever discussed whether a nation should be able to detain someone for up to one year without indicting him or her. Instead, you drew a distinction between being charged and being indicted and left it at that. It would also be helpful if you defined “bail” in this context. I thought that bail applied to people who are indicted. (3) If the prosecution contended that Harry Potter book were part of the evidence, then it is fair game to say that someone in ILE was being either a knave or a fool, on the basis of there being a second copy of this book at Raffaele’s flat. Likewise, you seem to be ignoring the very words of the intermediate court, which said that Amanda did not disdain multiple frequentations. It was the court’s choice to include this language in its decision. If one agrees with me that it is sexist (and irrelevant) to bring a suspect’s putative intimate behaviors into the decision, then one has to find fault with this court’s reasoning.

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