General News

Stone's Killer Suit Terminated

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Mar 19, 2001 | 11:51am EST

A Louisiana judge yesterday tossed out the lawsuit alleging that director Oliver Stone's 1994 film Natural Born Killers inspired a teenage couple to go on a killing spree in 1995.

The family of Patsy Byers, a convenience store clerk who was shot during a robbery, claimed that the gory movie inspired Sarah Edmondson and Ben Darras to go on a murderous rampage. Reuters reports that Edmondson, who shot Byers, and boyfriend Darras told police they watched the film several times before committing their crimes.

Natural Born Killers follows a murderous, mentally unstable couple (portrayed by Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) as they shoot their way across the country.

Edmondson and Darras were both 18 at the time of the shooting. The defendants reiterated that Edmondson did not shoot Byers until three days after seeing the movie, and that she did so because her boyfriend persuaded her to. Byers was left a quadriplegic after the shooting and later died of cancer.

According to the Associated Press, Edmondson is serving a 35-year prison sentence, while Darras is doing life for murdering a Mississippi man during the same crime spree.

The director's work is protected under the First Amendment, said Judge Robert Morrison, adding that the movie's creators did not intend Natural Born Killers to incite violence in viewers.

``Today's decision is a timely affirmation of the rule of law that we don't hold moviemakers and songwriters and authors liable for the criminal misdeeds of people who don't understand what they're watching, hearing or reading, and we are gratified by today's result,'' said Robert Schwartz, who represents Warner Bros.

``The lawyers told me this is a huge victory, but I don't think so,'' Stone told Daily Variety. "It's depressing that a suit that should have been thrown out on the first pass could result in such a waste of time, energy and money. We've created a new legal hell where everyone is entitled and no one is responsible.''

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