Where Art Thou Romeo? Lifetime Movie Enjoined At Request Of Convicted Killer

7030314imagesIn a highly questionable ruling, New York Supreme Court Judge Robert Mueller (left) enjoined the showing of Lifeline’s film, “Romeo Killer: The Christopher Porco Story,” which tells the true story of University of Rochester student Christopher Porco (right) who murdered his father with an axe and tried to murder his mother. It is a case of prior restraint and is rare in the United States. Proco had sued that the movie uses his name “for the purposes of trade.” However, Porco is a convicted murderer in a high-profile case from Nov. 2004. It is not clear how Mueller believes that such cases depictions are not covered by free speech but thankfully Mueller was reversed by the appellate court.

Porco is serving a minimum sentence of 50 years and filed a demand for an injunction from prison without counsel.

Porco can certainly file for defamation for anything that is false and defamatory — though some would argue that he is “libel proof” due to his notorious history.

What is also striking about the case is that Mueller granted the injunction despite that fact that Porco had never seen the film since his cinematic exposure is somewhat reduced at the maximum security prison at Dannemora, New York.

The Supreme Court has warned that “such a prior restraint on speech constitutes “one of the most extraordinary remedies known to our jurisprudence” and is universally recognized to be “the most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights.” Nebraska Press Ass’n v. Stuart, 427 U.S. 559, 559,
562 (1976). Indeed, as argued in the appellate brief, the burden for such prior restraint has been described as a “virtually insurmountable barrier.” Miami Herald Publ’g Co. v. Tornillo, 418 U.S. 241, 259 (1979) (White, J., concurring).

I fail to see how Mueller could have reviewed a movie based on a notorious crime as subject to such an injunction from Porco. The only such order that comes to mind previously in New York was the prior restraint placed on Business Week in 1995. That case however involved the publication of sealed documents from a case. I viewed that order as highly problematic for the same reason, though it was a stronger basis for an order than the Porco case.

Mueller is a former prosecutor with a degree from Ohio Northern University and an undergraduate degree from Rutgers University.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2013/03/21/lifetime-movie-about-christopher-porco-wont-air-judge-rules/?intcmp=features#ixzz2OCyUxjnA

11 thoughts on “Where Art Thou Romeo? Lifetime Movie Enjoined At Request Of Convicted Killer”

  1. Preventing criminals from profiting from their crimes makes sense, and I can agree with factual documentaries being done for profit. But why should people allowed to profit from “dramatized” (read: falsified) versions of stories, sexed up to sell or completely untrue and being presented as “historical”? I am not on Porco’s side of the argument, I am on the side of those whose names are falsely impugned by lies and distortions of the truth.

    In 1995, Kevin Mitnick was arrested and in 1999 convicted and sentenced to prison for computer hacking. A movie called “Trackdown” (billed as “Takedown” in other countries) was made, fictionalizing and outright inventing things that never happened (e.g. the claim that Mitnick physical assaulted another computer hacker, Tsutomu Shimomura, which even Shimomura admits never happened).

    Mitnick and several hacking groups made legal attempts to prevent the movie from being released, but failed. In response, a hacking group made their own documentary on the events, called “Freedom Downtime”. Having seen both, “FD” makes for far better viewing because it matches the news stories and public records, unlike “TD”.


    Mitnick’s case is also relevant to other issues on Turley’s site. Mitnick was held without trial for over four years (including eight months in solitary, with no access to legal resources) for a non-violent crime, and that was before 9/11. His persecution…sorry, prosecution heavily mirrors that of Aaron Swartz and the Department of Injustice’s overzealous and heavy-handed tactics. It was less about stopping crime than about making an example of someone on behalf of a large corporation (in Mitnick’s case, DEC and Pacific Bell).

  2. Frankly –

    It’s not just “made for TV” stuff that is historical revisionism. “Based on a true story” movies that are often profitable and often the least accurate (e.g. “Argo”).

    The US military refused to offer “assistance” (read: equipment) in the making of “Black Hawk Down” (and other movies) unless one of the key individuals from Somalia was written out of the script. Ewan McGregor’s character “John Grimes” is fictional, though all of his actions were that actions of the person who was there, John Stebbins.

    Stebbins is currently serving a 30 year sentence in a US prison. After returning from Somalia, he raped his six year old daughter. My money says it was a result of Larium US soldiers are required to take. (Many suicides, murders and assaults have been committed by people who used the drug, though the US military and drug maker deny any link.)

  3. I am troubled by made-for-tv garbage that pretends to be based on reality. Far too often reality is just not sexy enough so the writers and directors punch it up a bit. If the story were fiction that would not be a problem, the problem is for many people the movie will BE reality.

    I could easily see an argument made that any false representation of the facts, or a dramatization of the events, could impact the guys future. Not the sort of client that will generate a lot of sympathy but then I always thought those are the ones that may need more help.

  4. Goerring objected to news reporters being at the Nuremberg Trials. Then he kills himself in his cell. After he admitted that He had set the Reichstag Fire. There was a tunnel running under the street between his office and the Reichstag.

  5. and look at the effect the judge’s ruling had, it caused the respondant time and legal fees awaiting the appeal. The judge shouldn’t have been so careless.

  6. It gives me scant comfort that some places other than Texas have really bad judges. One has to wonder where such judges got their legal training and what they forgot or never learned.

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