Columbine lawsuit against makers of video games, movies thrown out
By The Associated Press
Editor's note: The Associated Press reported April 8 that the family of Dave Sanders had appealed U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock's dismissal of the lawsuit. John DeCamp, the Sanders' attorney, said the case ought to force a fundamental rethinking of how the First Amendment is handled.
DENVER A federal judge yesterday dismissed a lawsuit that claimed several video game distributors and moviemakers shared blame for the Columbine High School massacre.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock granted motions to dismiss filed by Time Warner Inc. and Palm Pictures, as well as 11 video game makers, including Sony Computer Entertainment America, Activision and Id Software, the maker of "Doom."
The lawsuit was filed by the family of slain teacher Dave Sanders and on behalf of other Columbine victims. It alleged that the makers and distributors of the games and movies should have known their products could have led student gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to carry out the massacre.
Sanders' wife Linda refused to comment on Babcock's ruling. Her lawyer, John DeCamp, said he hadn't seen the decision but would almost certainly appeal it.
In the ruling, Babcock said there was no way the makers of violent games including "Doom" and "Redneck Rampage," and violent movies such as "The Basketball Diaries," could have reasonably foreseen that their products would cause the Columbine shooting or any other violent acts.
In a journal written a year before the attack, Harris wrote of his and Klebold's plans: "It'll be like the LA riots, the Oklahoma bombing, WWII, Vietnam, Duke and Doom all mixed together. ... I want to leave a lasting impression on the world," Harris wrote. "Duke Nukem" is also a video game.
Babcock rejected the plaintiffs' claim that video games should not be protected by the First Amendment, ruling that a decision against the game makers would have a chilling effect on free speech.
"Setting aside any personal distaste, as I must, it is manifest that there is social utility in expressive and imaginative forms of entertainment, even if they contain violence," Babcock wrote.
During the investigation into the April 20, 1999, shootings, police found a videotape that shows one of the killers with a sawed-off shotgun he called "Arlene" after a character in the video game "Doom."
The plaintiffs also said Harris and Klebold had watched the Leonardo DiCaprio movie "The Basketball Diaries," in which a student kills his classmates.
Babcock also rejected the argument that the video games were defective because they taught Harris and Klebold how to point and shoot guns without teaching them the responsibility or consequences of using weapons.
He also ruled that the defendants' legal fees be paid.
Authorities say the gunmen killed Sanders and 12 students before killing themselves in the attack that also left about two dozen others wounded.
Babcock is the judge who previously dismissed all but one of nine lawsuits filed against the school district by the families of those slain or wounded at Columbine High School. The one he didn't dismiss was filed by Sanders' family.
The other defendants included in the motion to dismiss are: Acclaim Entertainment, Capcom Entertainment, EIDOS Interactive, Infogrames, Interplay Productions, Midway Home Entertainment, Nintendo of America and Square Soft.
Not included were Apogee Software, Atari Corporation, Island Pictures, New Line Cinema, Meow Media, Network Authentication Systems, Polygram, Sega of America, and Virgin Entertainment.
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