Stone, Studio Move to End Copycat Killers Suit

Director Oliver Stone has filed a motion to end the long-running copycat killer case that claims that his 1994 thriller, Natural Born Killers, drove a Louisiana teen to shoot a convenience store clerk after seeing the movie.

Variety reports that Stone and Time Warner Entertainment filed an affidavit in Louisiana state court this week, contending that the plaintiffs must prove that the defendants specifically intended the film's viewers to commit violent crimes and that they have failed to do so.

The lawsuit, which was originally filed as a wrongful death suit in 1995, expanded to name Stone and the studio in 1996. The family of Patsy Byers, a cashier who was shot during a 1995 robbery in Ponchatoula, La., claims that two 18-year-olds, Sarah Edmondson and Benjamin Darras, were inspired by Killers — which features Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as a lovey-dovey couple who go on a Bonnie and Clyde-like nationwide killing spree.

Edmondson, who pulled the trigger, and her boyfriend were convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Byers was left a quadriplegic after the shooting and later died of cancer.

According to Variety, a Louisiana trial court — the same court that will decide the current summary judgement motion — dismissed the claim against Stone and the studio, but a Louisiana appellate court reversed that decision in 1999, holding that the plaintiffs could try to prove through discovery that the filmmakers intended to incite unlawful behavior.

Stone has repeatedly maintained that Natural Born Killers is a satire. The director and Warner also argued that speech is protected by the First Amendment, unless it is specifically intended to incite imminent lawless action. The defendants emphasized the fact that Edmondson did not shoot Byers until three days after she saw the movie, and that she did so because her boyfriend encouraged her to.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs were not available for comment. Argument on the motion is scheduled for March 12.

Reuters contributed to this story.