Ah, the fun, the entertainment…
So, one of the many arguments I’ve heard shared over the years is the one stating “if the conspiracy theorists aren’t on to something…Why doesn’t Courtney take legal action against them? She must be scared of opening up a can of worms.” Well, here we go then. Ultimately I can understand why such an attempt has never been made; the only official releases have been the half-hearted pulled-punch ‘Kurt and Courtney’, the first book by Halperin and Wallace (then the reprise, rewrite in 2004), plus Tom Grant’s self-published efforts. There’ve been no big targets to take aim at until now. “Soaked in Bleach” is a worthy target and it’s in some ways a mark of respect, an indication of the scale of the effort, that it’s worth responding to.
Here’s the redacted letter from Courtney’s lawyers:
Click to access soaked-in-bleach-letter-redacted-2_redacted.pdf
The letter very usefully references the link to the outcome of the recent Seattle police investigation:
The film makers have responded by claiming they’re being threatened and that their right to free speech is being infringed if Courtney takes a civil action against them. Actually, my understanding of freedom of speech means they have a point. The First Amendment protects the individual from an attempt by the government to prevent them giving an opinion – it has since been taken as the basis for wider protections for the individual against entities other than the government.
On the other hand, Courtney is perfectly entitled to take action against the film makers for libel and/or slander. It’s complicated, however. While the Supreme Court states that labeling something as ‘opinion’ doesn’t give any first amendment protection against being judged to be libel/slander, some states do have laws that protect opinion to a greater degree. In cases between private individuals (which is what a case between Courtney and the film makers would be) the first amendment doesn’t infringe on common law definitions of libel/slander. The burden would be on Courtney’s lawyers to indicate that the film makers had malicious intent toward her and/or intended to cause her emotional distress and that according to existing verifiable evidence they’d made false statements in the film. She’s certainly correct in viewing a film that accuses her of murder as being potentially guilty of libel/slander and she’d have a fair chance of winning.
So, far as I can see, it’s entirely reasonable of Courtney to take action against a film that calls her a murderer. If someone called me a murderer I’d do the same thing. It’s reasonable of the film makers to defend themselves. What would happen in an actual court case? Feel free to discuss among yourselves… 😉