Injustice in Perugia
a website detailing the wrongful conviction of Amanda Knox & Raffaele Sollecito
The Lifetime Debacle
The Lifetime Debacle
By Bruce Fischer

Rumors of possible movie deals about Amanda Knox had been circulating for years but most believed a movie would come long after the court proceedings had concluded. So it was a surprise to many when the Lifetime network announced that they had a movie project in the works slated for early 2011 titled “Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy” starring Hayden Panettiere as Amanda Knox and Marcia Gay Harden as Amanda’s mother Edda Mellas.

How can you write an accurate script without knowing the outcome of the trial? For the Lifetime network the answer to that question was simple; just say the movie is “based on a true story.”  Taking this route left little chance of a good outcome, not that Lifetime movies are held to a high standard, but any movie of this nature presented to the public with the trial still ongoing was dangerous and Lifetime executives should have known as much.

Thankfully Amanda’s defense team was successful in getting the movie blocked in Italy so that perspective jurors would not be influenced. No matter what the outcome of the movie happened to be, it would be improper for any member of the jury to watch the film. Italy does not prevent jurors from interacting with the public or from obtaining information from the news and other forms of media which made it extremely important for Amanda’s defense team to take action. At the time of this writing the lawsuit against Lifetime was still pending.

When the movie was announced, in a rare occurrence, all sides of the debate in this case agreed on something, as all believed that the movie was inappropriate. International outrage came quickly after Lifetime released trailers for the movie showing portrayals of Meredith Kercher being striped half naked in violent attack scenes. It was reported that Amanda Knox was sickened by the movie trailers when they flashed across her television screen in her jail cell. The defense teams for Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito, Rudy Guede, and legal counsel representing the Kercher family, all objected to the film.

Unfortunately there was nothing to stop Lifetime from showing the movie to an American audience and the movie was aired for the first time in February 2011. The movie was wrought with inaccuracies and disrespectful to all involved. When Lifetime said “The Amanda Knox Story” was based on a true story, they were being disingenuous to their audience. This would be obvious to anyone that followed the case closely but could easily give the wrong impression to viewers who were hearing detailed information for the first time.

The director Robert Dornhelm took many liberties when making the movie. Hayden Panettiere’s portrayal of Amanda Knox displayed demeanor throughout the film suggesting that that Amanda had something to hide. Facial expressions often speak louder than words on our television screens. While watching the movie I felt that Dornhelm was clearly attempting to put Amanda in a bad light.

One scene early on shows Amanda looking at Meredith with an angry tone that quickly turns into a smile when Meredith makes eye contact. There was never any witness testimony from anyone stating that Amanda ever showed any anger toward Meredith. The look seen on Amanda’s face in that scene is the work of pure fiction.

A similar look can be seen on Amanda’s face in an emotional scene when her mother has to tell her that she must remain in prison for over a year while police decide whether or not to charge her with the murder of her friend. We see Amanda sobbing as she goes to hug her mother and as soon as they embrace, we see a scary anger filled look on Amanda’s face over her mother’s shoulder. Dornhelm goes to great lengths to imply that Amanda is fabricating her emotions and has something to hide.

Dornhelm’s intentions are once again made clear in a scene showing Amanda alone in her prison cell, watching the news on television as Rudy Guede is indicted. An expression of deep worry is seen on Amanda’s face as if she has a dark secret. The truth is that Amanda was grateful when Guede was indicted as she wanted whoever had brutally murdered her friend brought to justice.

Dornhelm adds dialogue to many situations where the characters were alone. Facial expressions and dialogue are key factors that influence viewers to form an opinion about the characters involved. Most viewers would not stop to think about that fact, instead taking the fictional dialogue as truth. We often see this with movies based on true stories as it is impossible to know exact dialogue, but this was a reckless path for Dornhelm to take given the fact that the actual real life trial was still ongoing.

Besides the general feel that Dornhelm was portraying to the audience based on the characters he envisioned, the movie is also filled with many factual errors. Some will seem less important than others but all work together to create the final product.

Amanda Knox and Meredith Kercher traveled to Italy to attend college. It is safe to say that one of the first things on their list would be to find a place to live. The movie suggests that Meredith found the room at the cottage before Amanda did when in reality Amanda signed the lease first. Is this a big deal? Not at all, but right from the start we see that Dornhelm does not feel the need to do basic research.

There are many small details that do not change the story line drastically but show carelessness on the part of the filmmakers. One scene shows Amanda’s mother Edda Mellas at an airport in Perugia when she received the call from Amanda’s stepfather Chris Mellas informing her that Amanda had been arrested. The truth is Edda was actually in an airport in Switzerland. Again, is this a big deal? Not at all, but some small details carry much more weight than others so it is important to make sure you have accurate facts for all details, no matter how big or small.

Take this small detail for instance; Amanda is shown working at a coffee shop before the murder took place, when a friend calls her Foxy Knoxy as if that was her current nick name at the time. This small detail is completely false, fueled by the real life Foxy Knoxy myth created by the media. Little details like this one can subtlety work to change the opinion of the viewer. Amanda was not called Foxy Knoxy by her friends.

There is an odd scene worth noting that shows Amanda and Raffaele skipping around in an open field having a picnic. Amanda and Raffaele had only known each other for six days and never had a picnic in the frigid month of October. I am not sure what Dornhelm was trying to suggest but the scene gave a clear sense that he had no real grasp of the actual story that he was recreating.

In another scene promoting pure fiction, we see Amanda and Raffaele looking immature at a candlelight vigil for Meredith, and then running away laughing and giggling. The truth is they were never there. Amanda and Raffaele did not attend the vigil. It needs to be noted that neither Meredith’s British friends or her other roommates attended the vigil, so it was not unusual that Amanda and Raffaele were not there. The truth is that the two had been called back to the police station for more questioning that night and wanted to make sure they had something to eat beforehand. Why would Dornhelm take such liberties with this scene? Why would viewers be expected to believe this was fiction?

Dornhelm, once again showing that he did not care much for research, resurrected a long refuted myth about Raffaele in an attempt to show that Raffaele shared in the guilt that Dornhelm had wished on Amanda.

Amanda and Raffaele made the decision to call the police after they had discovered that the cottage may have been burglarized. The Postal Police were the first police to arrive at the cottage on November 2, 2007. They arrived to investigate two cell phones that were found in a nearby garden that were traced back to Amanda’s housemate Filomena Romanelli. This visit was not out of the ordinary as the Postal Police handle this type of incident. The Carabinieri (the division of the police department that Raffaele called) arrived shortly after the Postal Police. The prosecution claimed that Amanda and Raffaele were surprised by the arrival of the Postal Police but the claim was proven to be complete nonsense. Raffaele stated that he had already phoned his sister and the Carabinieri before the Postal Police arrived. Raffaele’s sister was a police officer at the time. Amanda and Raffaele were not surprised at all when the Postal Police showed up; in fact they assumed the Postal Police were the Carabinieri responding to Raffaele’s call.

The prosecution claimed that Raffaele went and hid in Amanda's room and called the Carabinieri after the Postal Police arrived in order to make it look as if he and Amanda were not trying to avoid the discovery of the crime. This was simply not the case and fortunately for Amanda and Raffaele there was proof to show what actually took place.

Video taken from a camera located in the parking garage across the street from the cottage supports Raffaele’s claim. The clock on the garage camera was ten to twelve minutes slow. The prosecution completely misled and confused the public on this point by repeatedly stating the camera timer was fast.

The reason we know the clock is slow is because the camera shows a picture of a Carabinieri police car, and a Carabinieri officer with the distinctive stripe running down his trouser leg, in a clip time-stamped 1:22 pm on the day Meredith's body was discovered. However, at 1:22 pm, the Carabinieri were driving around, unable to find the place. They called Amanda's cell phone at 1:29 pm to ask for directions. Amanda handed the phone to Raffaele who handed it to one of the Postal Police, who explained how to get there. That call lasted four minutes and fifty seven seconds, meaning it did not end until 1:34 pm. Therefore, even if one assumes the call did not end until after the car appeared in the video, the clock had to have been at least ten to twelve minutes slow.

This is significant, because it means the camera footage shows the Postal Police arriving after Raffaele called the emergency number. The claim that he went and hid in Amanda's room, called his sister, and then called the emergency number twice, a series of calls that took about five minutes, is ludicrous. The details about Raffaele’s calls were confirmed in court yet Lifetime chose to show the refuted lie in order to smear Raffaele. Why?

Dornhelm’s scenes depicting the actual attack in no way give the viewer any sense of what actually occurred. First, Meredith is shown striped down to her bra and panties when she is stabbed. In reality she was fully dressed when attacked because she had just arrived home. Rudy Guede’s DNA was found on her jacket sleeve. Evidence shows that her jacket was violently pulled off of her body after it had already been soaked in blood. There is extensive proof showing that Meredith was not disrobed until after she was mortally wounded. Why would Dornhelm ignore these fundamental facts?

Second, the murder room shown in the movie was twice the size of the actual room. They even added a dresser! Ron Hendry did extensive research on this case for Injustice in Perugia and he showed in great detail that Meredith’s bedroom was too small for the murder to have taken place as suggested by the prosecution. Four people struggling in a room of that size would have caused far more of a disturbance as Hendry describes here:

“Much of the room was undisturbed, including items on the desk, wall shelves, and the wall hangings. The nightstand may have been jostled, but several items were left untouched on it as well.”

The brutal interrogation scene, in which the accusation of Patrick Lumumba was coerced out of Amanda was acceptable (if reviewed using made for TV standards), other than the fact that Amanda received no water. Unfortunately the movie leaves out an extremely important detail regarding what occurred shortly after the interrogation ended. During the interrogation Amanda signed 2 statements that were typed out for her (in Italian) by the police stating that she was in the kitchen of the cottage holding her ears as Meredith was being attacked in her bedroom by Amanda’s boss, Patrick Lumumba. The film fails to mention that shortly after her interrogation ended, when Amanda was out of the high pressure situation, she wrote out a retraction. Here is an excerpt from her statement:

“In regards to this ‘confession’ that I made last night, I want to make it clear that I’m very doubtful of the verity of my statements because they were made under the pressures of stress, shock and extreme exhaustion.”

The film once again ignores Amanda’s retraction when they show Mignini boldly shout out in anger that Amanda allowed an innocent man to languish in prison by not retracting her statement.

This brings us to the most egregious lie in the movie. On the day the murder was discovered, witnesses at the police station said they overheard Amanda discussing details of the crime scene. Amanda was in the kitchen of the cottage at the time so she did not see into the room when Meredith was discovered. Mignini’s character charges in the film that Amanda could not have known those details on the first day, proving she participated in the crime.

The real life Mignini did make similar claims but they were refuted. The movie neglects to add that fact leaving viewers to believe that Amanda could not have possibly known the details she mentioned, therefore suggesting that she was guilty.
After the discovery of Meredith’s body, everyone present at the cottage was ordered to the police station for questioning. Filomena’s boyfriend and her friend Paola had come to the cottage after Amanda and Filomena had exchanged several phone calls discussing the concern before the murder was discovered. Amanda and Raffaele would catch a ride to the police station in Luca’s car. During the drive, Raffaele was discussing the details of the scene with Luca and Paola. Keep in mind, Raffaele and Amanda did not see into Meredith’s room when the door was broken down, so Raffaele was looking for details. Raffaele asked if Meredith was dead and if she had been murdered. Luca responded that Meredith was dead and that her throat had been cut. All of this talk proved to be too much for Amanda causing her to break down and cry. Paola testified in court that the conversation took place, completely refuting Mignini’s claims. The court fully accepted the explanation for Amanda’s knowledge, making Amanda’s statements a non issue.

Why does Dornhelm go out of his way to suggest to viewers that Amanda had knowledge of the crime she could not have had unless she was involved? Furthermore, why did Dornhelm ignore known facts about the case purposely attempting to make Amanda look guilty? Why did Lifetime allow this garbage to be broadcast on their network? Hopefully these questions will eventually be answered in a court of law.

I have witnessed the damage done by this film firsthand, as several people have personally told me that they have concluded that Amanda is guilty, based on viewing the Lifetime movie. Even though I find it absolutely ridiculous that anyone would base their conclusions on a Lifetime project, there is no doubt that the movie had a negative effect on some of the viewers.

After the appeal reached a conclusion, Lifetime announced that it would revise the film before airing it again. If Lifetime had any integrity at all, the network would have apologized to its viewers for making the movie in the first place, announcing that the movie would never be aired again, followed by a personal apology to Amanda and Raffaele. 
Paolo Romio and Hayden Panettiere
Lifetime TV ad created by Charlie Wilkes
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