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N.Y. appellate court strikes down prior restraint on Lifetime docudrama

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  1. Prior Restraint
A New York appellate court struck down on Thursday a trial judge’s order forbidding Lifetime Entertainment Services from airing a…

A New York appellate court struck down on Thursday a trial judge’s order forbidding Lifetime Entertainment Services from airing a drama based on a 2004 murder case. Lifetime had already aired the program last year after the court stayed the restraint pending resolution of the appeal.

Christopher Porco, convicted of murdering his father and attempting to murder his mother while they slept in their home, filed a pro se law suit from a New York prison to stop Lifetime from airing “Romeo Killer: The Christopher Porco Story." Porco, who is serving 46 years to life, had claimed that the movie was an unauthorized and fictional account and that use of his name violated civil rights law, the Times Union, in Albany, reported.

The Supreme Court Appellate Division court found that a trial judge’s acceptance of Porco’s argument was an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech. Justice Karen Peters wrote in Porco v. Lifetime Entertainment Services that the film was of public interest, and that Porco failed to show “immediate and irreparable public harm” that would require censorship.

“Its broadcast would not create the type of imminent and irreversible injury to the public that would warrant the extraordinary remedy of prior restraint,” Peters wrote.

She added that even if parts of the film are fictionalized, that factor would not provide sufficient basis for banning it.

A trial court in Clinton County, N.Y. had granted a temporary restraining order to Porco in March 2013, but Lifetime got an emergency stay so the movie aired as scheduled last year, the New York Law Journal reported.