The real-life drama that has swirled around jailed 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 a movie about it set to air on the Lifetime television channel in the US on Feb. 21.
Lawyers acting for Ms. Knox have demanded that the movie based on the murder not be aired, and trailers for it be pulled from the Internet. They say it would hurt the chances of the former University of Washington student in her fight to overturn a 26-year jail sentence, handed down by a court in Perugia, Italy, at the culmination of a yearlong trial that already received intense media coverage on both sides of the Atlantic in 2009.
The film, "Amanda Knox: Murder on trial in Italy," stars "Heroes" actress Hayden Panettiere and includes graphic images that depict the death of Meredith Kercher, the 21-year-old British woman allegedly killed by Knox and two others.
Legal teams for both Knox and the family of Ms. Kercher argue that the movie is prejudicial and inappropriate because the case is not yet over. Knox and her Italian former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito who was sentenced to 25 years in jail, have both denied their involvement and have launched appeals against their convictions and lengthy prison sentences.
The appeal is likely to take several more months because the judge in charge of the case has authorized a comprehensive review of DNA evidence, which the pair’s lawyers claim was deeply flawed and most probably contaminated in a botched forensic investigation by Italian police.
“The movie and trailer might expose the plaintiff [Knox] to public contempt or induce an evil opinion in the minds of right thinking persons and in particular the jury of the court in Perugia,” the American’s lawyers, Carlo Dalla Vedova and Luciano Ghirga, wrote in a letter to Lifetime TV.
The television network has so far declined to comment on the matter, but lawyers have given them until Feb. 10 to pull the plug on the film.
If that does not happen, they threatened to take the case to a US court on the basis that the film contains “false and defamatory” content and “appropriates Amanda Knox’s name and likeness.”
The case, in which Knox, her then Italian boyfriend, and a local drifter were found guilty of stabbing to death Kercher, in what prosecutors called a violent sex game, continues to attract huge media interest.
The case appeared to split public opinion in Italy, 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 long trial, the highly contested circumstances of the crime make it a genuine murder mystery.
Knox’s Seattle-based stepfather, Chris Mellas, told ABC News that the film was “disgusting” and said that when Amanda saw an Italian TV report on the movie, she felt physically sick and started hyperventilating.