Grand Theft Auto sparks another lawsuit

Rockstar parent Take-Two Interactive, Sony, Wal-Mart, and GameStop are blamed for the murder of three policemen by a teenage car thief.

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Just when the furor over Grand Theft Auto: Vice City's "Kill all the Haitians!" level had finally died down, the game sparked another lawsuit. Along with its predecessor Grand Theft Auto III, the crime-action game is being blamed for inspiring the triple murder of three Fayette, Alabama, police officers.

Devin Moore, 18, is accused of the slayings, which occurred after he was arrested in 2003 for suspicion of the crime of grand theft auto. According to the Associated Press, when he was caught, Moore said, "Life is a video game. You've got to die sometime." While being booked at the station, he allegedly grabbed a police officer's pistol and then shot its owner and two other officers in the head; all three died. Moore is then said to have driven off in a stolen police car, but was later apprehended. He is currently being charged with three counts of first-degree murder, and is set to go to trial on July 11.

Two of the victims' next of kin have filed a lawsuit accusing the two GTA games as having "trained and motivated" Moore to commit his crimes. Besides Take-Two, the other defendants named in the near 60-page, $600 million suit are Wal-Mart and GameStop, where Thompson is said to have bought both M-rated games while under the ESRB-mandated 17-year-old purchase age. Sony Computer Entertainment America, makers of Moore's PlayStation 2 console, is also named in the legal filing.

"I don't want another family to go through what our family has been through the past few years. It's about saving lives," said plaintiff Steve Strickland, a brother of one of the victims. The plaintiffs' attorney is none other than Jack Thompson, the Miami-based lawyer who has waged a one-man crusade "over the past twelve years in a national effort to hold accountable the entertainment industry for the harm it does to our children," according to his Web site, Stopkill.com.

After targeting gangsta rap's violent lyrics in the early 1990s, Thompson has spent the last half-decade railing against the perils of violent video games, which he refers to as "murder simulators." While speaking to the local NBC affiliate, Thompson said "[the game] industry has targeted, with the most popular and violent game in history, every police officer in America and put a bull's eye on their back." To back up his claims, Thompson cites studies at Harvard University and the University of Indiana, which he asserts "prove that adolescents' brain functions are damaged by a steady diet of violent images."

For its part, Take-Two was conciliatory to the victims' relations, saying, "We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the families of the officers killed." However, it gave no ground to the plaintiffs' attorney. "With regard to Mr. [Jack] Thompson, unfortunately he has a habit of doing this kind of thing often. No court has yet to take his legal claims seriously. The suggestion that there is a link between the use and sales of Grand Theft Auto and this tragic incident is utter nonsense. Anyone suggesting that such a link does exist is either misguided, misrepresenting the facts, or both."

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