Lifetime TV movie showing up to court

Thursday, March 21, 2013

NEW YORK — The Lifetime television network’s attempt to air a movie this weekend on a man who killed his father and maimed his mother with an ax depends on a ruling from a New York state court.

A New York judge has temporarily banned Lifetime from showing “Romeo Killer: The Christopher Porco Story.” It was scheduled to debut Saturday night and repeat on Sunday, showing the story about an upstate New York man imprisoned for the grisly crime.

Porco sought to stop the movie, arguing Lifetime needed permission to use his name because the movie represents a fictionalized account of the crime. New York state Supreme Court Judge Robert Muller agreed with him and temporarily barred the showing, pending a late April hearing.

Lifetime has asked the state Appellate Division to lift the injunction and allow the movie, which stars Eric McCormack of “Will & Grace” as an investigator, to be shown this weekend.

“It’s a sad day when a convicted murderer who has exhausted all of his appeals can convince any court to stop people from exercising their First Amendment right to talk about his crime,” Lifetime spokesman Les Eisner said Wednesday.

The extent to which Lifetime took liberties with the story is in question. Eisner said the movie was “inspired by” Porco’s crime, but would give no further details. Court papers filed by Lifetime with the Appellate Division argue 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.”

Lifetime said it had spent more than $2 million acquiring rights to tell the Porco story and nearly $1 million promoting Saturday’s premiere of the movie.

If viewers tune in expecting to see the movie Saturday and it is not on, they will “come to see Lifetime as unreliable and not trustworthy, which will have long-term negative effects on Lifetime’s ‘brand’ and reputation, and may ultimately lead to declines in its ratings,” the network argued in court papers.

Eisner would not comment on what Lifetime would air if the network is not permitted to show the movie this weekend.

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