Amanda Knox sings the Beatles, attracts Hollywood's eye, preps for appeal

Amanda Knox, the American student convicted of murdering her roommate in Italy, is set to appeal her conviction. Meanwhile, Amanda Knox performed in a prison concert and is the subject of two movies.

Alessandra Tarantino/AP/File
Amanda Knox reacts during a hearing at Perugia's court, in Italy, in this Nov. 21, 2009 file photo.

The real-life soap opera that has swirled around American college student Amanda Knox since she was convicted of murdering her British roommate is set to become even more of a media circus, with two movies to be made about the controversial case.

Details of the projects emerged as Ms. Knox and her lawyers prepare to appeal the 26-year sentence, which was handed down last December in Perugia, Umbria, where the 2007 murder took place.

The appeal will start Nov. 24 in Perugia, with the former University of Washington student's courtroom appearance likely to draw dozens of American, British, and Italian journalists and TV crews back to the ancient walled city.

The case, in which Knox, her then Italian boyfriend, and a local drifter were found guilty of stabbing to death a 21-year-old British woman, Meredith Kercher, in what prosecutors called a violent sex game, continues to attract huge interest in Italy.

The case appeared to split public opinion here, with half the country believing that Knox was a promiscuous, cold-hearted killer and the other half seeing her as an innocent abroad who was convicted despite no obvious motive.

But ongoing fascination in the story comes down to her fresh-faced good looks and the fact that, even after the 11-month trial, the highly contested circumstances of the crime make it a genuine murder mystery.

“You have all the elements of the reality TV culture in which we live: sex, drugs, violence, and lies," says Barbie Latza Nadeau, author of "Angel Face: The True Story of Student Killer Amanda Knox," and an Italy-based correspondent for Newsweek and the Daily Beast.

“Both the victim and the suspects are attractive, intelligent people, but there’s also nothing special about them. I think American parents see their own daughters in Amanda Knox, while British parents see their daughters in Ms. Kercher," says Ms. Latza Nadeau.

“Plus, even after all this time and after so much evidence has come out, it is still a mystery. No one really knows what happened that night,” she says.

Prison concert

The smallest details of Knox’s life behind bars are reported on an almost weekly basis by the Italian media – most recently the fact that she took part in a prison concert and sang along to songs by the Beatles, reportedly her favorite band.

Several books have been written about the murder, the most recent by an ex-prisoner who befriended Knox in jail.

"In Passeggiando con Amanda (Walking with Amanda)," Florisbela Inocencio de Jesus, describes how the young Seattle undergraduate was gradually hardened by prison and how other inmates initially resented the special treatment she received, such as longer visiting hours.

"Take Me With You," a book about Knox by an Italian parliamentarian, Rocco Girlanda, who often visited her in prison to check on her welfare, is due out next month.

Court date: Oct. 1

Knox is scheduled to appear in court in Perugia on Oct. 1 when, unless the hearing is held behind closed doors, every detail of her demeanor and dress will again be scrutinized.

The hearing is part of a separate case, running parallel to her appeal, in which she faces accusations of slandering the Italian police. She accused officers of cuffing her around the head and threatening her during an all-night interrogation a few days after Kercher’s body was found in the cottage the two women shared.

As Knox spends her days in a grim women’s prison outside Perugia, a British production company is negotiating to buy the rights to Latza Nadeau’s book.

A local newspaper in Umbria, Corriere dell’Umbria, reported last month that the film would star the British actor Colin Firth, best known for "Mamma Mia!" and "Bridget Jones's Diary."

British director Michael Winterbottom, whose previous films include "A Mighty Heart," based on the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl, is reportedly set to direct the film. Both men visited Perugia during the summer.

On the other side of Atlantic, actress Hayden Panettiere, the star of the sci-fi series "Heroes," is due to play Knox in a movie to be shown on Lifetime channel next year and expected to focus on the events leading up to the murder and the subsequent trial. News of the film has already upset the Kercher family and has been criticized by Knox’s defense team.

"Such a film is highly inopportune when the case has yet to go to appeal," lawyer Maria Del Grosso told the Italian press.

Italy’s legal system allows defendants to challenge their convictions at two different levels, with a final outcome – either acquittal and release, or confirmation of the conviction – likely to take years.

Lawyers for Knox's ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, said they would try to ban the American movie if it was completed before the full appeals process had been exhausted.

"We do not yet have the final verdict in this case. If the film is ready before the second level of appeal is over, we will seek a court injunction to prevent it being aired," one of the lawyers, Luca Maori, told Italian journalists this week.

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