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Supreme court crushes law against animal cruelty videos and photos

April 20, 2010 |  1:57 pm

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court struck down on free-speech grounds Tuesday a federal law that makes it a crime to sell videos or photos of animals being illegally killed or tortured.

In a 8-1 ruling, the justices overturned the conviction of a Virginia man who sold dog-fighting videos.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., speaking for the court, said the First Amendment does not allow the government to criminalize whole categories of speech and expression that are deemed undesirable.

Roberts also said the law was too broad and could allow prosecutions for selling photos of out-of-season hunting, for example.

Only Justice Samuel Alito dissented.

Congress passed the law a decade ago to halt the practice of selling videos that depicted tiny animals being crushed to death. It had been rarely used, however, and came under challenge when prosecutors used it against the dog-fighting industry.

This is the high court's second controversial free-speech ruling this year. In January, the court struck down the laws that prohibited corporations from spending money on election races.

-- Tribune Wire Services

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Photo: The Supreme Court Building in Washington. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

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