LOS ANGELES – The Matrix (search) has taken the entertainment world by storm ever since it created a cult-like following of fans in 1999, but in some cases the obsession may have turned to murder.
A number of separate slayings since the film's debut have one thing in common: the accused were fascinated with The Matrix.
In February, 19-year-old Josh Cooke (search), of Oakton, Va., bought a shotgun similar to the one used by Keanu Reeves’ character Neo, and shot his parents to death in their home.
Cooke's lawyers have said that he believed he was living inside the "Matrix," owned a trench coat similar to the one Reeves wears in the film and had a poster of him in his bedroom.
"After conducting an investigation, we concluded that our client was obsessed with the movie The Matrix," Mani Fierro, one of Cooke's defense attorneys, said Tuesday on The O'Reilly Factor.
Fierro also told Fox News that the motion the defense filed in court last month contends that Cooke "did believe he was in a virtual reality world similar to 'The Matrix.'"
The storyline of the Matrix movies is that reality is an illusion created by evil computers. Only a select few humans are "unplugged" from "The Matrix" and are fighting the computers for survival.
Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl said any defense lawyer who blames a movie for murder has "got to be pretty desperate."
"If you don't have the facts or the law on your side, you try to come up with something innovative, and this is certainly innovative," she said.
But in a case decided last week, a woman who told police that she lived in "The Matrix" was found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.
Tonda Lynn Ansley (search), 37, of Hamilton, Ohio, shot and killed a college professor who rented her a room and hired her to do home renovations. Ansley told psychologists the professor, Sherry Corbett, was conspiring to kill her, and was drugging her and invading her dreams.
Normally, however, linking murder back to the movies is a tough road for lawyers to take, Wiehl said.
"Jurors are hesitant to accept that kind of defense. Like most of us, they think that people should take personal responsibility for their actions," she said.
"A Matrix defense could be part and parcel of a bigger defense which could be an insanity defense, but jurors are reluctant to accept insanity as well."
Still, an insanity defense tied to The Matrix also worked for college student Vadim Mieseges, who was accused of murdering his landlady in May 2000, according to the The Washington Post.
Mieseges told police the landlady was “giving off evil vibes" and he feared he was going to be "sucked into 'The Matrix,'” The San Francisco Examiner reported.
And an obsession with the movie may have even played a role in the Washington, D.C., sniper shootings. The 18-year-old sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo (search) made reference to the film in notes he wrote in his jail cell in January, The Post reported.
“Wake up!! Free your mind, you are a slave to the matrix ‘control,'” Malvo wrote. “Free yourself of the matrix ‘control.’”
In Cooke's case, there was no history of violence, no restraining orders brought against him by his parents and no prior convictions — "nothing that would hint he may be predisposed to do something like that," Fierro said.
"Basically our position is not that The Matrix made him do it. Our position is that The Matrix might have had some influence in Mr. Cooke's life," he said.
Wiehl said that using movies and music as part of a legal defense is found most commonly in cases where the accused is a youth.
"A younger person would probably have a better chance with that defense than an older person," said Wiehl. "The argument there would be that they are more susceptible to be influenced by movies and by the media."
Matrix producers Warner Bros. Pictures said the murders have no link to the film, reported The Post.
“Any attempt to link these crimes with a motion picture or any other art form is disturbing and irresponsible,” the statement said.
"I only can comment that 15 million people have seen the movie and I don't know what the links are," producer Joel Silver told a news conference in London Monday, according to Reuters news service. "It's a wonderful fantasy story that doesn't take place in the real world, so I can't comment on what makes people do what they do."
The Matrix Reloaded, the second film in the trilogy, broke box-office records last weekend to become the highest grossing R-rated film ever. It took in $93.3 million, according to studio estimates.
The Matrix Revolutions, the final film in the trilogy, will hit theaters in November 2003.
Fox News' Catherine Donaldson-Evans contributed to this report.