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DeSalvo v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.

300 F. Supp. 742 (1969)

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DeSalvo v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.

United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts

300 F. Supp. 742 (1969)

Facts

In 1964, Albert DeSalvo (plaintiff) was arrested and charged with robbery, assault, and other crimes. Thereafter, DeSalvo was evaluated by two psychiatrists to determine his competency to stand trial and his capability to handle his own finances and business affairs. Both psychiatrists determined that DeSalvo had schizophrenia; however, one of the psychiatrists determined that DeSalvo was nonetheless capable to handle his finances and business affairs, while the other determined DeSalvo needed a guardian. During this time, DeSalvo’s name became associated with the Boston Strangler, which was a moniker given to the perpetrator of a string of murders that occurred in Boston prior to DeSalvo’s arrest. In 1966, with the help of F. Lee Bailey, an attorney who DeSalvo retained to help DeSalvo sell his life story, DeSalvo sold the rights to his name and life story to Gerold Frank, who published a book entitled The Boston Strangler that portrayed DeSalvo as the Boston Strangler. In 1967, Frank sold the motion-picture rights in DeSalvo’s name and story to Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation (Fox) (defendant), and Fox began filming a motion picture entitled The Boston Strangler (the movie) the following year, which portrayed DeSalvo as the Boston Strangler. DeSalvo filed suit against Fox to prevent the movie’s release, claiming that Fox’s use of DeSalvo’s name and story in the movie constituted defamation and an invasion of privacy. However, DeSalvo never proved that the movie’s portrayal of DeSalvo was false. DeSalvo’s motion for a preliminary injunction was denied. After a trial, DeSalvo and Fox requested findings of fact and conclusions of law.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Garrity, J.)

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