• Text smaller
  • Text bigger

Well. You never know about juries in this day and age. … A Little
Rock panel of 12 distinguished citizens this week awarded more than half
a million dollars to two Pulaski County sheriff’s lieutenants after
finding that Pat Matrisiciana defamed them in a film about the deaths of
two Saline County boys in 1987 — the so-called “boys on the tracks”
case. The verdict is a total miscarriage of justice.

They found that in his 1996 documentary, “Obstruction of Justice:
the Mena Connection,”
Matrisciana
libeled Jay Campbell, 38, and Kirk Lane, 37, in accusing them and four
other law enforcement officials of being implicated as suspects in the
murder of the boys and covering up the crime.

Here’s the problem with the verdict: For starters, the cops were
indeed investigated by law enforcement officials in Arkansas. An
eyewitness placed them at the scene for Jean Duffey, a former Saline
County prosecutor herself, and Linda Ives, the mother of one of the
boys, both of whom participated in the making of the video. Furthermore,
even if the cops are innocent of any involvement in the case, they were
not libeled by the video. There was no “reckless disregard for the
truth” by the filmmakers, as I testified in the trial last week.

This verdict will have, in the immortal words of the American Civil
Liberties Union, “a chilling effect” on free expression and the First
Amendment.

The best investigation of “the boys on the tracks case” was conducted
by Ives and Duffey in their unofficial capacities. The pair is incapable
of reckless disregard because they wholeheartedly believe the officers
are guilty of murder, as Ives testified in the case. How can one
recklessly disregard the truth when one is consumed with finding the
truth? It’s just one of those legal impossibilities.

Campbell and Lane, narcotics officers at the time of the boys’
mysterious deaths, contend that Dan Harmon, a prosecutor now serving
jail time for unrelated drug charges, dragged their names into the case
to thwart their investigation of him. Well, guess what, Sherlock? If
that’s the case, they ought to sue Harmon, not filmmakers who accurately
depict the facts of the case.

They claim that being named in the film tarnished their reputations.
Funny how they both received promotions after it was distributed, huh?

Remember, now, these cops are government officials — therefore
public figures by the standards of Sullivan vs. The New York Times. The
standard for many years in America has been very high in proving libel
against public figures, as well it should be.

If Americans, and especially journalists, no longer feel safe and
secure in criticizing the official conduct of government officials, this
country is in a bad way.

Matrisciana believes the fix was in from the beginning. His earlier
film, “The Clinton Chronicles,”
which sold hundreds of thousands of copies, documented many of the
scandals of the Clinton administration and showed they were a
continuation of policies and corruption begun years earlier during Gov.
Bill Clinton’s reign in Arkansas.

“In Arkansas, I believe it’s almost impossible for me to have a fair
trial, but I do believe justice will prevail,” Matrisciana said. He
still has a motion pending before the judge to dismiss the case for lack
of grounds and, if that is denied, he said an appeal will follow.
“We’re not going to give up. We’re going to fight every inch of the
way.”

And before the cops start spending that money, they better also
understand that Matrisciana does not have the deep pockets they may have
imagined. This is a man — a good man, with a good heart — who has
poured his creative talents into a selfless pursuit of the truth.
Contrary to the claims of the officers’ attorneys, he did not produce
the video as a way to make money. In fact, Matrisciana’s company is
facing very hard times because of his willingness to distribute videos
at cost or even, in many cases, for free.

“They think I’m such a big, rich Hollywood film producer, but I have
six employees,” he said. “We’re a little mom and pop operation. … We
don’t have the money. I live in a mobile home in the desert.”

Let’s also remember what this case was about: Kevin Ives and Don
Henry were murdered. About that there is no longer any dispute — even
though, in spite of their stabbed and battered bodies, a
Clinton-appointed medical examiner originally ruled the deaths
“accidental.”

No suspects were ever arrested. The perpetrators are still walking
around free.

Is there still any justice in America? Can there be any justice in
Arkansas? This travesty of a verdict is not justice. There will only be
justice when the cold-blooded killers of Kevin Ives and Don Henry are
tried, convicted and executed for their heinous crime.

In the meantime, if you would like to help Pat Matrisciana fight back
against this atrocious assault on his and our First Amendment rights,
consider ordering a copy of “Obstruction of Justice,” “The Clinton
Chronicles” or one of 100 other titles produced by his company,
Jeremiah Films.

  • Text smaller
  • Text bigger
Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.