Heroes star Hayden Panettiere is caught up in a bitter controversy over her portrayal of a convicted killer in the Lifetime movie Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy.

Set to air on Feb. 21, the film is a real-life story about a young American student who has been found guilty of murdering her roommate, Meredith Kercher.

But Kercher’s parents are outraged over comments by Hayden that are sympathetic to Knox.

“(Amanda’s) not a malicious girl,” Hayden, 21, said in an interview. "She didn’t have any intention to do this. She really tried to be as stoic and as brave as she could against all odds, and I do commend her for it."

The family of 21-year-old Kercher – who was sexually assaulted before having her throat slashed in Perugia, Italy – say they’re appalled by Hayden’s statements and have fired off a “legal warning” to stop the movie.

Knox’s family isn’t happy with the project, either. Knox is currently appealing her 26-year prison sentence for the 2007 killing.

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