A man who killed two police officers and a police dispatcher in Alabama is appearing before an appeals court today, claiming that child abuse and Grand Theft Auto made him do it.

Devin Moore, 18 at the time, was being held on suspicion of auto theft in June 2003 when he wrestlee a gun away from officer Arnold Strickland. He then shot and killed Strickland, officer James Crump and dispatcher Ace Mealer. When he was arrested for the murders, he was reported to have said, “Everybody has got to die sometime.” The statement was amended in December 2004 during a court motion which claimed the actual statement was, “Life’s a videogame. You’ve got to die sometimes.”

While his father stated after the arrest that Moore was a “troubled child” with a history of drug use and criminal behavior, Moore claimed that excessive time spent playing Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City “programmed him to kill,” and put him in a dissociative state in which he was unable to discern the reality of his actions. The videogame defense was disallowed during his trial, however, and an insanity defense based on post-traumatic stress disorder failed to sway jurors. He was convicted of capital murder in August 2005, and sentenced to death for the crimes.

Despite being unable to use the defense in his trial, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has agreed to hear oral arguments in the matter. Moore’s attorney is claiming that while in a dissociative state, Moore reverted to “scripted behavior” influenced by his exposure to the Grand Theft Auto games and abuse suffered during his childhood.

The videogame-based appeal was spurred largely by Jack Thompson, who filed a civil suit in August 2005 against Wal-Mart, GameStop, Sony and Take-Two Games on behalf of the victims’ families. According to Thompson, the defendants in the suit, by creating the game and selling it to Moore, “They equipped this man to kill. They trained him.” Thompson was removed from the case in November 2005 for being “unable to conduct himself in a manner befitting practice in this state.” The Strickland vs. Sony wrongful death suit has yet to proceed.

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