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Court reinstates 'Natural Born Killers' incitement suit

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LOUISIANA--A state appellate court in Baton Rouge in mid-May decided that a suit brought by the victim of an armed…

LOUISIANA–A state appellate court in Baton Rouge in mid-May decided that a suit brought by the victim of an armed robbery and shooting against the makers of the movie “Natural Born Killers” for inspiring the crimes should proceed, reversing a lower court’s decision to dismiss the action.

Patsy Byers, who was shot by Sarah Edmondson and Benjamin Darrus during a robbery, sued her assailants, Edmondson’s parents, several insurers, the companies that produced “Natural Born Killers,” and the film’s director, Oliver Stone. Byers claimed her attackers had been inspired by Stone’s movie, and that the filmmakers should have known that such crimes would result from the distribution of a movie “treating individuals who commit such violence as celebrities and heroes.”

The appellate court held that before Byers’s suit could be dismissed, the court would have to determine whether or not she could prevail at trial if she could prove all of her allegations.

The court concluded that if Byers could in fact prove that the filmmakers produced and distributed a film that was intended to cause viewers to imitate its violent imagery, then she might be able to convince a jury to find in her favor.

The court also held that if Byers could prove her case, the First Amendment would not protect the filmmakers from liability.

The trial court in Amite that dismissed the lawsuit against the filmmakers had concluded that Louisiana law did not allow such claims. (Byers v. Edmondson; Media Counsel: Jack Weiss, New Orleans)