The Supreme Court struck down a federal law today aimed at banning videos that show graphic violence against animals, saying it violates the right to free speech. The justices, voting 8-1, threw out the criminal conviction of Robert Stevens of Pittsville, Va., who was sentenced to three years in prison for videos he made about pit bull fights. The law was enacted in 1999 to limit Internet sales of so-called crush videos, which appeal to a sexual fetish by showing women crushing to death small animals with their bare feet or high heels.
The videos virtually disappeared once the measure became law, the government argued. But Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said the law goes too far, suggesting that a measure limited to crush videos might be valid. In dissent, Justice Samuel Alito said the harm animals suffer in dogfights is enough to sustain the law.