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High court to review law barring sale of animal-cruelty videos

By The Associated Press
04.20.09

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court announced today that it would consider whether to revive a federal law banning the sale of images of animal cruelty. A federal appeals court ruled that the law illegally restricted free speech.

The justices said today that they would look at the decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia which also overturned the conviction of Robert Stevens of Pittsville, Va. In 2005, Stevens was convicted and sentenced to 37 months in prison for selling videos of pit bull fights.

The appeals court described one video as including a "gruesome depiction of a pit bull attacking the lower jaw of a domestic farm pig."

The government says it has a "compelling interest in protecting animals from wanton acts of cruelty."

The Humane Society of the United States, backing the government, said that the 1999 law played a critical role in stopping the spread of so-called crush videos that show women crushing to death small animals, often with their bare feet or high-heeled shoes.

The case, U.S. v. Stevens, 08-769, is to be argued in the fall.


Update
Justices suggest animal-cruelty law goes too far
In arguments in United States v. Stevens, Justice Breyer wonders why statute couldn't be rewritten more narrowly. 10.06.09

Previous
3rd Circuit won't create new category of unprotected speech
By David L. Hudson Jr. Court votes 10-3 to strike down 1999 federal statute that criminalizes depictions of animal cruelty. 08.01.08

Related

Clinton signs bill outlawing sale of animal-torture videos

Federal law will allow prosecutors to charge vendors for possessing or selling 'crush videos.' 12.10.99

Fla. Web site operator sues to broadcast cockfights

Lawsuit claims federal law criminalizing creation, sale of depictions of animal cruelty 'abridges' and 'chills' free speech. 07.11.07

Supreme Court to consider ban on depictions of animal cruelty
By Tony Mauro If justices overturn 3rd Circuit ruling, they could carve out new free-speech exception. 04.21.09

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