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Louisiana court hears appeal in 'Natural Born Killers' case

By The Associated Press

04.12.02

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Movie makers need to be held responsible for their product, say lawyers who blame the movie Natural Born Killers for a crime spree that left a woman paralyzed and a man dead.

The husband and children of Patsy Byers, shot in 1995 by Sarah Edmondson, will appeal if the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals rejects their case, attorney Joe Simpson said after arguments in the case April 10.

It is expected to be months before the 1st Circuit rules in the lawsuit against director Oliver Stone and others involved in producing the film.

Edmondson, who was 18 at the time, said she and her boyfriend, Benjamin Darras, had watched the movie repeatedly before setting out from Oklahoma.

In Mississippi, Darras shot and killed a businessman. In Louisiana, Edmondson used her father's gun to hold up and shoot Byers, a store clerk who later died of cancer.

Simpson, of Amite, and attorneys Rick Caballero of Baton Rouge and Ron Macaluso of Hammond appealed a district court ruling, which dismissed the case on grounds that the filmmakers were protected by the Constitution's free-speech provisions.

"We're fighting the First Amendment and that's a fight that we really don't care for except in this special circumstance," Simpson said.

He said more than a dozen murders around the world have been attributed to Natural Born Killers. Similar cases against the movie's makers have failed, but none has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

However, in 1999, the Supreme Court denied Stone's and Time Warner's request to be dropped as defendants on First Amendment grounds. They were joined by 27 media companies including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox Broadcasting Co., the Los Angeles County Bar, the Recording Industry Association of America, Inc. and the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc.

State District Judge Bob Morrison threw out the case against Stone and Time Warner in March 2001, saying they are protected by the First Amendment. Morrison ruled that the Byers family could not show that Stone meant the film to incite violence.

Edmondson is serving a 35-year prison sentence for shooting Byers. Darras is serving a life sentence.

Update

Appeals court tosses suit blaming movie for killing spree
Louisiana judges rule Natural Born Killers can't be blamed for teens' crimes, saying First Amendment 'does not permit a violence-based notion of obscenity.'  06.07.02

Previous

Louisiana judge throws out suit claiming movie caused shooting
Court says Oliver Stone’s ‘Natural Born Killers’ is protected by First Amendment.  03.13.01

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