UPn 07/16 1816 Judas Priest band denies responsible for youths sui...
Judas Priest band denies responsible for youths suicide
By CY RYAN
RENO, Nev. (UPI) -- Audio experts will present evidence that an album by the
heavy metal band Judas Priest contained subliminal messages that drove two young
men to suicide, attorneys for the youths' families said Monday in opening
statements of a civil trial.
The young men made a suicide pact and shot themselves in 1985 after listening
to the album "Stained Class," which contained the hidden phrases: "Try Suicide,"
"Let's Be Dead," and "Do it, Do it," Attorney Vivian Lynch said.
During a break in the court proceedings, members of the British rock group
told fans and autograph seekers they were not responsible for the deaths of
Raymond Belknap, 18, and James Vance, 20.
"This trial will make it perfectly clear that Judas Priest could not be held
responsible," said Rob Halford, one of the original members of Judas Priest, a
pioneer in heavy metal music. Glenn Tipton, another band member, said there were
no subliminal messages on "Stained Class."
The parents of Belknap and Vance are seeking unspecified damages from the
band, CBS Inc., which distributed the record and Betagrange Ltd., a company
associated with the production of the album.
Belknap and Vance on Dec. 23, 1985, drank beer, smoked marijuana and then
listened to hours of the album. Afterward, they took a shotgun to a nearby
school playground where Belknap shot and killed himself. Vance then blew away
his jaw, mouth and nose but lived for more than three years before dying of
effects of the shooting.
Attorneys Lynch and Kenneth McKenna, representing the parents said audio and
computer experts will show the album contained subliminal messages, triggering
the suicide pact between the two young men.
Lynch, who represents Vance's family, said the records of Judas Priest talk
of violence, destruction and anti-social behavior. She said Judas Priest "does
not advocate this as a way of life. They are not soldiers in the army of Satan."
The hidden messages are there to create excitement "as a way of making money."
She accused the band of "irresponsible greed" for "embedding these messages" in
the records. The excitement, she said results in those who listen to the record
spreading the word to others to buy the record.
Lynch told District Judge Jerry Whitehead, who is hearing the case, that the
band was "meddling in the mysteries of the human mind."
Belknap and Vance were part of the culture that believed the words of Judas
Priest were "scriptures," Lynch said. The hidden messages "pushed them over the
edge," she said.
The band members were dressed in either suits or sport coats and sat behind
their lawyers at the trial.
Halford said the allegations were "completely false and untrue." He said band
members were "upset and concerned" when they were accused of prompting the
deaths. "You must understand we all have families. This was very tragic."
Suellen Fulstone, attorney for Judas Priest and CBS, told the judge, "there
are no hidden messages on the records. These two young men had many problems
with drugs, alcohol, scrapes with law enforcement and loss of jobs."
She said the day of the shooting, Belknap was depressed because he had lost
his job. Just before he shot himself Belknap said, "Life sucks". She argued
there was no suicide pact. She said Vance didn't take seriously an oath the two
made earlier. When Belknap shot himself, Fulstone said, Vance "panicked and
feared the police would charge him with homicide and then followed suit."
More than 60 witnesses including family members, audio and computer experts
and, counselors and police officials are scheduled to testify in the trial that
will last more than three weeks.
APn 07/16 1859 Record-Suicide
Copyright, 1990. The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
By SANDRA CHEREB
Associated Press Writer
RENO, Nev. (AP) -- Fans of the rock band Judas Priest who bought the heavy
metal group's music for its excitement also were bombarded by subliminal
messages touting suicide and Satan, a lawyer said Monday.
"This case is about mind control," Vivian Lynch said in her opening
She represents the family of one of two young men who died after entering a
suicide pact which the lawsuit claims was spurred by the lyrics and alleged
subliminal messages on the band's "Stained Class" album.
"In this case, what pushed the boys over the edge to eternity was the
subliminal push," Ms. Lynch said.
But Suellen Fulstone, representing the band and CBS Records, countered that
the case was motivated by greed.
Relatives seeking unspecified damages from the British band and CBS Records
claim hidden messages spurred the two men to swear a suicide pact after drinking
and smoking marijuana while listening to the album.
Defense lawyers counter it was the youths' troubled lives, including alcohol
and drug abuse, which contributed to their fate.
Ms. Lynch told the court the audience targeted by the band was a "stained
class" in itself that craved excitement and was attracted to Satanism, sexual
aggression, violence, suicide and death.
"Excitement is what the defendants were selling. Excitement is what the
consumers were buying," she said.
On the afternoon of Dec. 23, 1985, Raymond Belknap, 18, held a sawed-off
shotgun to his chin and died instantly from a single blast. James Vance, 20,
blew away the lower part of his face.
Vance, whose family is represented by Ms. Lynch, lived three more years,
underwent repeated operations and fathered a child before his death on
Thanksgiving Day 1988 of complications from his injuries and a reaction to
"This was not a suicide," Ms. Lynch said. "This was an adventure; a journey
to a better place. What they planned was good, because Judas Priest said it was
Ken McKenna, representing Belknap's family, said the youths were "compelled
by a power (they) did not understand."
McKenna said the album, particularly the song "Better By You, Better Than
Me," contained the hidden messages, "Do it," "Try suicide," and "Let's be dead."
He argued in his opening statement that the band and CBS Records took
"unreasonable risks with adolescent minds," and that their actions were
"dangerous, irresponsible and negligent."
Ms. Fulstone countered: "There is no subliminal content on the `Stained
Class' album. I say that unequivocally and we will prove that unequivocally."
She said the events of that afternoon will show that the two did not have
time to listen to the album repeatedly, as claimed, and that Belknap initiated
the shooting because he was depressed over losing his job.
"Ray Belknap and James Vance had sad and miserable lives," she said. "They
turned to drugs and alcohol, which only made their lives worse.
"In their anger and frustration they had fantasies of killing other people.
On Dec. 23, Ray Belknap turned that anger onto himself."
Lead vocalist Rob Halford told reporters that he and other members of the
band were disturbed by the youths' deaths, but that they could not be held
"In good time we will be able to refute all the allegations," Halford said.
Band members, dressed in suits, signed autographs and spoke with fans who
crowded the courtroom during a brief recess.
Washoe District Judge Jerry Carr Whitehead is presiding over the non-jury
trial. He already has denied a defense motion to dismiss the case on grounds the
record was protected by the First Amendment.
Whitehead said freedom of speech protections would not apply to subliminal
messages. He said he was not convinced the hidden messages actually existed on
the album, but left the argument to attorneys.
The lawsuit is proceeding as a products liability case, with the band and
record company accused of negligence and intentional and reckless misconduct.
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