Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dominick Dunne, 1925-2009. R.I.P.

Dominick Dunne, movie producer turned investigative journalist, died today of bladder cancer. He was 83.

Dunne was best known for the articles he wrote for Vanity Fair. He spent most of the last three decades covering legal proceedings such as the trials of Claus Von Bulow, the Menendez brothers, O.J. Simpson and William Kennedy Smith, nephew of the late Ted Kennedy. He also wrote an article about the trial of John Thomas Sweeney, the man who murdered his daughter actress Dominique Dunne in 1982.

Dunne also wrote novels. After covering William Kennedy Smith's trial, Dunne developed an interest in the Martha Moxley case. She was murdered in 1975 and it was believed that Michael Skakel, a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy, was somehow involved but could not be proven. His interest in the Moxley case inspired the novel A Season in Purgatory. Although the story was fictional the novel played a significant role in renewing interest in the Moxley case which would eventually lead to Skakel's arrest and conviction for that crime. In 2002, Skakel was sentenced to 20 years to life for Moxley's murder.

Needless to say, Dunne was not a favorite of the Kennedys. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. holds Dunne responsible for Skakel's conviction and told Larry King that Dunne was a gossip columnist, not a journalist.

However, Dunne was ordered to apologize to and compensate former Congressman Gary Condit who brought forward a lawsuit against Dunne when he implicated him in the 2001 disappearance of Chandra Levy, an intern with whom Condit had an extramarital affair. Ingmar Guandique was charged with Levy's murder last March.

Dunne is survived by his son, actor Griffin Dunne and his sister-in-law, writer Joan Didion.

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