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Court to hear suicide-lyric appeal

The Nevada Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing today on an appeal by families of two Sparks, Nev., men who shot themselves after listening to alleged suicide messages in a Judas Priest record.

Judas Priest, a heavy metal British rock band, and CBS Records were sued by the families of James Vance and Raymond Belknap, who shot themselves in 1985.

Belknap, 18, died immediately; Vance, 20 at the time, died three years later.

The families alleged that the two men formed a suicide pact after listening to subliminal messages in the band’s recording of “Stained Glass.”

But following a trial in 1990, Washoe County District Judge Jerry Whitehead ruled there may have been subliminal messages on Judas Priest records but they weren’t placed there deliberately.

The judge, in rejecting a request from the Vance and Belknap families for $ 6 .2 million in damages, also said the messages didn’t cause the suicides.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the families’ attorneys argued that Whitehead erred in requiring proof of intent on the part of the rock group.

Instead, the attorneys said the judge should have considered the case a “product liability” case. They also argued Whitehead erred in holding the subliminal messages weren’t a proximate cause of the deaths.

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