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Candace Dempsey, author of the Murder in Italy: The Shocking Slaying of a British Student, Accused American Girl, and an International Scandal, disses Lifetime’s TV movie Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy, and even star Hayden Panettiere says, “Amanda Knox is innocent.” But the film made Dempsey’s Knox book an Amazon top 10 best seller.
“I admired Hayden’s performance, and Marcia Gay Harden as her mother,” says Dempsey. “They had real mother-daughter chemistry, and Hayden’s yoga cartwheel was genius. But I have a problem with the timing. I wouldn’t mind the mistakes if the film weren’t running during Amanda’s appeal. I’d just say, oh, that’s Hollywood. But when you brand a movie as ‘based on a true story,’ then it’s highly prejudicial to show Amanda and her boyfriend Raffaele giggling at a prayer vigil for the victim. They weren’t even there.
“I agree with [author] Doug Preston that only idiots base their decisions on TV docudramas, but I’ve gotten emails from Lifetime viewers who think Amanda is guilty because ‘She was giggling after Meredith’s death.’”
But Dempsey didn’t mind what the Lifetime TV movie did for her book Murder in Italy, which shot to No. 1 on Amazon’s Criminology best-seller list, made the top 10 list for True Crime, right after Truman Capote‘s In Cold Blood, and currently ranks 15,000 titles above Barbie Latza Nadeau‘s rival book Angel Face, published by Tina Brown‘s Beast Books. “My book has always been a good, steady seller, but the movie gave it a big lift.”
Like Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times writer Timothy Egan, who’s also blogged about the case, Dempsey is dubious about the prosecutor’s theory that Knox’s roommate Meredith Kercher‘s murder involved Knox and Satanist sex orgies. Dempsey also dismisses Monday’s bombshell announcement that Knox allegedly confessed to her parents, “I was there.”
“That is such a crock,” says Dempsey. “‘I was there’ is something that police leaked in the beginning. Common sense would tell you that she meant her boyfriend’s apartment, because the parents don’t react. Imagine how they’d act if she’d really said she was at the murder scene. The pretrial judge asked her about it and accepted her version. This was also dealt with in her trial and considered no big thing. We see this pattern again and again, where the press picks one salacious thing out of a hat (or more likely the prosecutor’s office). You have wonder why this is coming out during her appeal, a few days after the prosecution’s chief witness was put behind bars for dealing heroin.” The first appeal hearing is slated for March 12.
Dempsey’s book has no movie offers, but Charles Mudede, co-screenwriter of the Robinson Devor-directed Sundance grand jury prize nominees Police Beat and Zoo, has begun a Knox screenplay. He may finish it after Devor and Mudede’s in-production doc on Sarah Jane Moore, the Beverly Hills socialite who came within six inches of killing President Ford, wraps. A believer in Knox’s guilt, Mudede won’t focus on her.
“It’s more about the Africans who are entangled — Rudy [Guede, convicted for the killing] and Patrick [Lumumba, falsely accused of the crime],” says Mudede, whose father Ebenezer Mudede worked for Robert Mugabe. “It will be weirdly an African film.”
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