PASADENA, Calif. — The murder trial of American college student Amanda Knox is recreated in a television movie that had the actors debating her innocence or guilt.
"It's one of those really riveting stories where you just don't know," Hayden Panettiere, who plays Knox, told television writers on Friday. "I can't say I have an opinion. That's why the story is so interesting. I don't know that we'll ever really know."
"Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy" airs Feb. 21 on Lifetime.
The movie focuses on the trial of Knox, who was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering her British roommate in the rented house they shared in the university town of Perugia, where both were studying.
Nicknamed "Foxy Knoxy" by her Italian prosecutor and the media, Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison, a verdict she is appealing. The co-defendant in the appeals trial is her ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, an Italian who was convicted of the same charges and sentenced to 25 years. Both deny any wrongdoing.
"Our story tells factually what happened up to the point of her arrest," executive producer Trevor Walton said. "We feel we've done this very responsibly and should have no effect on any ongoing trial."
The movie was filmed last year in Rome and Perugia. Producers didn't talk to any of the families, and instead worked from courtroom documents, including a 400-page report written by the judge in the case, and media reports.
"We didn't want to be biased in any way," Walton said. "We wanted to tell a drama. To go to the Knox family and not the Kercher family didn't make any sense."
Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden, who plays Knox's mother Edda Mellas, said Knox's innocence or guilt was a daily topic among the cast.
"I personally found an opportunity playing her mom to find reasons to question that she wasn't guilty, to believe fiercely in her," Harden said. "It was very difficult not to stand behind a position as the character."
Harden plowed through the judge's document, which she said contains specific details about DNA and both sides' presentations.
"In the report, I found there to be conjecture," she said.
Panettiere focused on staying true to who she believes Knox was before the trial.
"This wasn't a dark, angry girl," she said. "She was a young girl with dreams and aspirations. I don't think guilty or innocent takes away from that."
Following the movie, Lifetime will air an hour-long documentary "Beyond the Headlines: Amanda Knox" that features interviews with Knox's mother, father, friends, investigators and prosecutors discussing the legal evidence and allegations.
Panettiere's credits include the TV show "Heroes," and the movie "I Love You, Beth Cooper."