ALBANY — Christopher Porco, the man convicted of killing his father and maiming his mother with an ax in 2004, lost a legal round against Lifetime television network but the case will proceed.
According to his attorney, Alan J. Pierce, of the Syracuse law firm Hancock Estabrook, the Appellate Division did dismiss the case but essentially “punted” the issue of whether the 2013 movie chronicling the notorious killings violated Porco’s privacy and that of his mother, Joan Porco, who was added to the long-running lawsuit in 2017.
In 2006, a jury convicted Porco killing his father, Peter Porco, a popular law clerk, and trying to kill his mother while the couple slept in their Brockley Drive home. In 2012, Lifetime began making a movie about the killings and in 2013, Porco sued in an effort to stop “Romeo Killer: The Christopher Porco Story” from airing.
He lost the first round, which included a request for an injunction, his case was dismissed and the movie hit the airways in March, 2013. Porco, acting as his own attorney, appealed and the decision to dismiss was reversed. In 2017, his mother was added to the case, which is ultimately asking Lifetime to stop airing and selling the movie and monetary compensation for damage already done.
“What they did to Mrs. Porco in his movie is horrendous. She is in 12 scenes and all but one is completely fictional. They have her as a liar and a perjurer. They have her remembering the attack and she testified under oath she did not,” Pierce said. “Christopher Porco is convicted of killing his father and seriously injuring his mother and they made him look worse than that.”
The issue of joining Joan Porco to the suit is barred by the one-year statute of limitations — the clock for that begins ticking at the premiere. The court rejected Pierce’s argument of a “relation back doctrine,” which can allow other parties to be added after the original filing and beyond the statute of limitations.
But, the ruling released on Thursday, Oct. 3 said, the statute of limitations could begin at the movie’s 2013 premiere and again each time it is aired or sold but that won’t be fully known until the discovery phase of the proceedings is complete so the case will continue with Lifetime scheduled to file paperwork later this month and Pierce slated to file his final volley in November, he said.
The movie — which stars Matt Barr as Christopher Porco, Erin McCormick as Det. Sullivan and Lolita Davidovich as Joan Porco — was aired on a number of different television stations and is currently for sale on Amazon.
The court only ruled that Lifetime had a right to appeal an earlier decision that denied its motion to dismiss the case. It did not rule on the merits of the appeal, or if Porco’s original claim that his right to privacy was violated is valid.
Basically, the law states a business must get a person’s permission to use that person’s name, photograph or story for a profit. Porco claims the film was based in fiction rather than fact and thus the company needed his permission. If the film were fact based, according to the court’ earlier ruling, it would have been exempt from privacy laws.
“Mrs. Porco is being victimized all over again,” Pierce said. “If we prevail in this case, and I think we will, the longer it is available increases the damages.”
It was one of the most sensational murder cases in the history of the Capital District that involved a well-known, successful family living in the quaint suburb of Delmar. Peter Porco was a law clerk to Anthony Cordona, the presiding justice on the Appellate Division, Third Department, and the trial to determine if his son murdered him was moved to Orange County.
Prosecutors painted Porco as a spoiled rich kid with money problems who lashed out at his father who refused to again bail him out. Porco’s defense maintained he was in Rochester attending college at the time of the murders and that it was an attack by someone possibly connected Peter Porco’s legal work.
There was testimony by first responders that Joan Porco, on the night of the murder, indicated it was Christopher who swung the axe. But she said, under oath during the trial, she had no memory of that night.
Porco, now 36, is currently serving 46 years to life in the Clinton County Correctional Facility and becomes eligible for parole in 2052.