(CN) – Hustler lost its bid in the Supreme Court to stop a lawsuit accusing the magazine of publishing decades-old nude photographs of a woman killed by her husband, pro wrestler Chris Benoit, nearly three years ago.
In its March 2008 issue, Hustler published pictures of Nancy Benoit that were taken 20 years before her highly publicized murder. Her husband, wrestler Chris Benoit, killed Nancy and their son at their home in Georgia before committing suicide in 2007.
Nancy’s mother filed a federal lawsuit against Larry Flynt Publishing Group, Hustler’s publisher, claiming Nancy had asked photographer Mark Samansky to destroy the pictures and a video immediately after they were taken.
The Supreme Court denied Hustler’s appeal on Monday, leaving intact an 11th Circuit ruling last June that reinstated the family’s claim for damages.
The Atlanta-based appeals court had said the “brief biography” of Nancy and her murder accompanying the nude photos did not constitute a “newsworthy article.”
“The photographs published by [Flynt] neither relate to the incident of public concern conceptually [the murders] nor correspond with the time period during which Benoit was rendered, against her will, the subject of public scrutiny,” the appellate panel wrote.
“[W]ere we to hold otherwise,” Judge Charles Wilson added, “[Flynt] would be free to publish any nude photograph of almost anyone without their permission, simply because the fact they were caught nude on camera strikes someone as ‘newsworthy.’ Surely that debases the very concept of a right to privacy.”
Several media organizations supported Hustler’s appeal. In an amicus brief, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said the 11th Circuit’s ruling “makes no sense, as it goes well beyond the photographs that appear in magazines such as petitioner’s to affect all news-gathering.”