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Hustler Magazine argued Wednesday in a federal appeals court that its decision to publish nude photos of a model months after she was killed by her wrestler husband was protected by the First Amendment because she was a newsworthy figure.

The family of Nancy Toffolini Benoit has waged a legal battle against the pornographic magazine since it published the photos after she and her son were killed in 2007 by wrestler Chris Benoit. Her family said she never gave the magazine permission to print the photos.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in June 2009 that a notorious death doesn't give publishers a blank check to publish any images they wish. The case went to trial, and a jury in June 2011 voted to slap Hustler Magazine with $19.6 million in punitive damages for running the photos. A federal judge soon reduced that award to $250,000 to abide by a Georgia law capping damages.

The debate before the court on Wednesday was not only whether to reinstate the jury's eye-popping verdict, but also whether the case should have even gone to trial.

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