A shocking development took place today in what, for the video game industry, is the trial of the young century.
In Strickland vs. Sony, the families of two police officers and a police dispatcher killed by Grand Theft Auto player Devin Moore are suing Sony, Take-Two, Rockstar, Wal-Mart, GameStop for damages, based on the premise that GTA turned Moore into a triple murderer. The plaintiffs were led by controversial anti-game crusader Jack Thompson.
GP readers may recall that on November 3rd a hearing was held on pre-trial motions in the case before Circuit Court Judge James Moore in Fayette County, Alabama, where the murders occurred.
During that hearing, attorneys for the video game industry argued that Thompson's Pro Hac Vice (visiting) admission to the Alabama Bar should be revoked for a variety of alleged misconduct on Thompson's part. Although the defense claims about Thompson seemed to resonate with the Judge, he did not rule at that time.
Three days later, Thompson, by then back in Florida, surprised the gaming world by announcing that he was withdrawing from the case.
"The other side wants to make me the issue," he told GamePolitics at the time. The important thing is that the clients be served."
It appeared at that point that Thompson's longtime colleague Ray Reiser would take over for him in Strickland. Today, however, in a blistering 18-page decision, Judge Moore excoriated Thompson's professional conduct, and rejected his attempt to withdraw from the case. Instead, the Judge revoked Thompson's Pro Hac Vice admission, essentially removing him from the case. Judge Moore also noted that he was referring the matter to the Disciplinary Commission of the Alabama Bar for "appropriate action."
Judge Moore employed quite stern language in his ruling. His remarks include, "Mr. Thompson's actions before this Court suggest that he is unable to conduct himself in a manner befitting practice in this state."
For his part, Thompson has responded with an angry letter to Alabama's Judicial Inquiry Commission, questioning Judge Moore's ethics. Thompson's letter begins:
"I have had the disturbing experience of appearing before the above jurist in a high-profile wrongful death action, Strickland v. Sony... In my opinion, Judge Moore has violated...the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics by his unfortunate, improper, and prejudicial acts in this case, at the expense of three bereaved Alabama families."
UPDATE, Nov. 19th / 8:05 AM: The Tuscaloosa News has coverage in this morning's edition.