Games In The Court – Paducah Shooting
On December 1, 1997 , Michael Carneal (14), student of the Heath
High School in West Paducah, Kentucky, shot Nicole Hadley (14),
Jessica James (17) and Kayce Steger (15) - fellow students, who
were attending a morning prayer. Five other students where wounded
It does not seem that Carneal was a problem child, but he had slight
disciplinary problems ,
and it was reported that he had been picked on by peers:
And, Heath High School's principal said
the boy's school essays and short stories revealed that he felt
weak and picked on.
Principal Bill Bond said Carneal apparently "had been teased
all his life" and "just struck out in anger at the world."
People who know Carneal described him as physically small and emotionally
immature, but said he has been a good student with no serious discipline
Carneal himself was unable to explain why the shooting happened
In December 1998 Michael Carneal was sentenced to life in prison
after he had pleaded "guilty, but mentally ill" :
PADUCAH, Kentucky (CNN) -- A 15-year-old
Kentucky high school student was sentenced Wednesday to life in
prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years for killing
three classmates and wounding five others as they gathered for a
school prayer circle.
Judge Jeff Hines gave Michael Carneal the stiffest sentence available
to him as a minor under Kentucky law.
Several victims and their families spoke during the sentencing
Some of the most emotional testimony came from Melissa Jenkins,
now 16, a student who was struck by Carneal's gunfire and left
From her wheelchair, Jenkins asked Carneal to look at her while
she was speaking. She told Carneal she didn't harbor any ill will
toward him, but was upset that the shootings had occurred.
Jenkins' twin sister, Mandy, witnessed the shootings. Mandy Jenkins
told Carneal that she forgave him and that he needed help.
Defense attorney Tom Osborne told CNN in October, "Michael's
condition from a layman's point of view is that he just doesn't
perceive and think like most 14- and 15-year-old young men."
Early in 1999 the families of the victims Hadley, James and Steger
- represented by Jack Thompson - filed a lawsuit against several
Parents of Jessica James, Kayce Steger and
Nicole Hadley, students killed at Paducah, Ky, high school on Dec
1, 1997, file $130 million lawsuit against two Internet pornography
sites, several computer game companies and makers and distributors
of 1995 film The Basketball Diaries; assert that media violence
inspired Michael Carneal, boy who shot their children; film's makers
and distributors include Time Warner and Polygram Filmed Entertainment
Distribution Inc (M).
This lawsuit was received with mixed feelings by the Paducah community:
In a letter to the Paducah Sun, Nancy Holm,
the mother of one of the injured children, wrote, "By continually
parading students and faculty through the courts as defendants for
a crime that was the responsibility of one person, as far as I am
concerned, we cannot even start to heal."
But John B. Thompson [Jack Thompson], a lawyer from Coral Gables,
Fla., who is representing the parents, said the suits target movies
and video games, such as Doom, that have played a role in several
He said the games and pornography -- all of Carneal's victims
were female -- triggered the boy's rampage by blurring the line
between reality and fantasy.
"Is there more than one reason why these murders happened?
Yes, there is," Thompson said.
"But certain entertainment products are part of a causal
chain, and but for certain links in the chain, there would have
been no murders."
Paducah may provide a map of the future for Colorado, McCuiston
"Your whole community is in shock for a while, and after
they get through the shock, they band together like nobody's business,"
"Then when you come to lawsuits, everything changes, your mood
changes. When you start pointing fingers at kids and teachers and
administrators, it's tough. It's an emotional roller coaster. Your
whole community changes."
Thompson seems especially worried about the games Grand Theft Auto
and Doom, which he holds responsible for both the Paducah and Columbine
The games Thompson is most upset about include
Grand Theft Auto and Doom.
At Heath, Michael Carneal killed three students and wounded five
others as they participated in a prayer circle. Thompson said
Carneal, firing from 25 feet away, shot eight different targets
- three in the head and five in the upper torso.
"He had never fired a handgun before in his life. He didn't
miss with a single shot. He shot at one human being and then moved
on in a rapid fire technique," Thompson said. "He learned
it from playing a video game where you are rewarded for rapid
fire techniques. It is not what people do when they unload their
weapon into the first target until you have visual confirmation
that target is down on the ground and then move on."
He later filed his lawsuit in Paducah and went on the Today show
the next day and told the nation that there "will be other
American boys in American high schools who will go on shooting
rampages that have been trained on the game Doom, the game Michael
Carneal was trained on." Eight days later, Columbine happened.
Thompson then cited various studies, including one at Indiana
University that he says proves that playing violent games damage
children's brains; that they are unable to decipher reality and
what they see on a video game.
Kushner questioned these studies.
"If anybody could actually find definitive proof that these
games lead to violence, they would be banned. I wouldn't want
them out there. Who would want them out there?" he said.
"The fact of the matter is that no one has found that evidence.
I think there is a lot of misrepresentation in these studies that
have been supposedly done."
He went on to say that the leaders of the IU study could not
come to the conclusion that violent video games lead to violent
"The suggestion that you could play the video game and develop
the skills to fire a real weapon…I think anyone who has
actually played the game would think that is absurd at best,"
Kushner said, adding that his mother-in-law saw him playing the
game once and asked what it was. "I told her Doom and she
couldn't believe all the fuss was over something so cartoonish."
Thompson also said the Defense Department, with the authorization
of Congress, created the Institute for Creative Technology at
Southern Cal. He says the government is using tax dollars to pay
the video game industry to create murder simulation games that
break down the inhibitions of new recruits who have been trained
all their lives not to kill.
Kushner countered that claim by saying he had gone to the Institute,
and the game he played in a Bosnia-type setting and the unit had
to work together to rescue injured persons.
"When the next Columbine happens, it will be worse and then
the video game industry will then have the pressure put upon it
to change," Thompson said. "When Columbine to the factor
of 10 happens, there will be hue and cry to ban all games altogether.
Then the video game industry will say how did we get to this point?
"The answer I give them will be you didn't listen to normal
Kushner says society needs to focus on what is troubling these
"Instead of saying how do kids train on Doom, we should
be asking what is troubling these kids? We need to get a better
understanding of what is going on in their world," he said.
"What I hope to leave you with is if we misrepresent their
culture and things that are meaningful to them, it would be doing
a tremendous disservice, I think.
The lawsuit was finally dismissed in 2002:
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled
in the case last year that it was "simply to far a leap from
shooting characters on a video screen to shooting people in a classroom."
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