Perhaps not, but the supposed "crime" was falsely shouting "fire", and the panic would have happened even if there really was a fire. In any case, no one forced the other patrons to panic. If they did, it was entirely their own fault, and they—not whoever shouted "fire"—are wholly responsible for the consequences.
My understanding of the "shouting fire" metaphore is that it generally assumes it's a false alarm, but I may be wrong. If there really is a fire, the situation becomes very different (there is damage potential for announcing the fact, but there is a larger damage potential for not doing it).
I see this boils down to free will of pepole in a situation they perceive threatening. My understanding about panic (a physical reaction turning off the decision making parts of your brain in a threatening situation, since the decision has already been made: there's a fire, get out now), is that you don't choose whether you get it or not. It depends on how prone you are to get in panic (something you do not have a choice in), and how threatening exactly you consider the situation (in which you do have some choice, by of practicing the situation beforehand).
If we look at the situation statistically, in a full theater there's likely several people who panic at the prospect of being burned alive while queuing for the exit (or by the fact that they may get trampled by other panicing people). The situation is set up in a way that there's direct damage potential from someone shouting a false alarm.