Nancy Benoit’s Family Due Back In Court Over Hustler Photos

Nick Paglino

The Witchita Eagle is reporting the following, concerning Nancy Benoit, the late wife of Chris Benoit:

The family of Nancy Toffolini Benoit has waged a legal battle against the pornographic magazine since it published the photos after she and her son were killed in 2007 by wrestler Chris Benoit. Her family said she never gave the magazine permission to print the photos.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in June 2009 that a notorious death doesn't give publishers a blank check to publish any images they wish. The case went to trial, and a jury in June 2011 voted to slap Hustler Magazine with $19.6 million in punitive damages for running the photos. A federal judge soon reduced that award to $250,000 to abide by a Georgia law capping damages.

The debate before the court on Wednesday was not only whether to reinstate the jury's eye-popping verdict, but also whether the case should have even gone to trial.

Benoit's family appealed to the three-judge panel to let stand the jury's award, while the magazine's attorney used Wednesday's hearing to claim it was protected by First Amendment rights.

The magazine's attorney, Derek Bauer, argued that the case should never have gone to trial because his client was protected under the First Amendment to publish the photos because Benoit was deemed newsworthy. He said the courts have a duty to protect publications that publish "matters of public concern."

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