A federal judge said he wants to see “Alpha Dog,” a movie based on the Jesse James Hollywood murder case, before deciding whether to block its release.
The film, which was shown at the Sundance Film Festival and stars Bruce Willis, Sharon Stone and Justin Timberlake, is scheduled to be released Jan. 12. The characters’ names have been changed.
Hollywood’s lawyer is seeking to prevent the movie’s release until the death penalty case is over. Defense attorney James Blatt argues that the movie portrays his client in a bad light and could taint the jury pool, infringing on Hollywood’s right to a fair trial.
Universal Studios challenged the defense motion on grounds that it would violate its First Amendment rights.
On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Klausner said it was likely that Universal’s argument would prevail but the defense has a “valid, cognizable legal theory” and he wanted to see the movie before making a decision.
Prosecutors say Hollywood was the mastermind behind the August 2000 kidnapping and murder of 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz. They contend the boy was abducted from the San Fernando Valley area as part of a feud Hollywood had with the victim’s older half brother over a $1,200 drug debt. The teen’s body was found in a remote Santa Barbara County camping area.
Hollywood fled after being charged with murder and was captured in Brazil last year.
He has pleaded not guilty to charges and could face the death penalty if convicted. Four others have been convicted in connection with the murder.