Lifetime claims that injunction against its Chris Porco movie violates the First Amendment
Lifetime is building a niche for itself with ripped-from-the-headlines dramas based on lurid, real-life crimes.
Now one of those projects is leading to a real-life legal drama for the network.
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Lifetime filed emergency court papers Wednesday seeking to vacate a New York Supreme Court judge's ruling that blocks the network from airing "Romeo Killer: The Christopher Porco Story," which is scheduled to premiere on Saturday.
Supreme Court judge Robert Muller issued the restraining order on Tuesday in response to a motion filed six weeks ago by Porco, claiming that the movie uses a "substantially fictionalized account … about plaintiff and the events that led to his incarceration," and uses his name for "purposes of trade," in violation of New York Civil Rights Law section 51.
Porco was convicted of murdering his father and maiming his mother with an ax by jury in Orange County, New York in 2006.
In its memorandum in support of vacating or staying the restraining order, Lifetime's legal team says the order is "a classic prior restraint that violates the First Amendment" and contains "multiple errors of law."
Lifetime's attorneys also contend that "the details of the crimes, the criminal investigation, and the conviction of Porco as presented in the movie are all factually correct and well-documented."
The papers say that the alleged prior restraint is not warranted.
"This is not a case where national security concerns are in jeopardy. It is not even a case involving potential irreparable injury from the disclosure of trade secrets or other confidential information — it involves a movie based on the PUBLIC facts of a murder prosecution," Lifetime's memo reads.
"While [Porco] may not want the story of his crime repeated in a television movie, the constitutional protection of speech and press on matters of public concern flatly prevent the issuance of an order enjoining the broadcast of the movie," the memo continues.
Lifetime also contends that the preliminary injunction issued by Muller will have "a devastating financial and reputational impact on Lifetime, with millions of dollars in investment, lost revenues, and untold harm to its brand."
"Romeo Killer: The Christopher Porco Story" stars "Hatfields & McCoys" actor Matt Barr in the title role.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.