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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court to Weigh Law Barring Videos of Animal Cruelty

Posted Apr 20, 2009 9:39 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether a law barring videotapes and other depictions of animal cruelty violates the First Amendment.

The court will consider whether to create a new exception to the free speech clause that would uphold the law, SCOTUSblog reports.

“Like other forms of unprotected speech, such as child pornography, depictions of the intentional infliction of suffering on vulnerable creatures play no essential role in the expression of ideas,” the government argues in the petition for certiorari (PDF posted by SCOTUSblog).

The 1999 law at issue was enacted in response to “crush videos” showing women killing animals by crushing them with their bare feet or high-heeled shoes. The en banc 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia overturned the law last year, saying it violated the free speech rights of Robert J. Stevens, a Virginia man convicted for selling dogfight videos.

The cert petition says federal agents purchased videos from the defendant that included scenes of “savage and bloody dog fights and of pit bulls viciously attacking other animals.” The case is U.S. v. Stevens.

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