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Proposed Law Seeks To Ban "Murderabilia"

This past September, U.S. Senator John Coryn of Texas introduced the Stop the Sale of Murderabilia Act of 2013 in an effort to prevent violent criminals from profiting from the sales of letters, artwork, and other so-called “murderabilia.” In recent years, a number of websites have popped up – perhaps most notably Serial Killers Ink – selling items associated with well-known violent criminals.

Some recent sales that have gained media attention include:

  • items formerly belonging to Casey Anthony which have fetched upwards of $800
  • a letter penned by Fort Hood killer Nidal Hasan
  • a Christmas Card written by Ted Bundy

The September bill is Coryn’s third effort in recent years to introduce this kind of legislation.  The legislative effort recalls the “Son of Sam laws” that many states, as well as the Federal government, enacted throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s in order to prevent inmates from profiting from the sale of book deals and film rights to their stories.

The push for these laws followed the conviction of David Berkowitz for the Son of Sam killings in New York City that took place in 1976 and 1977 and set off a bidding war among publishers and film studios hoping to purchase the rights to Berkowitz’s story. However, some state statutes have been subsequently struck down in the judiciary.

Ironically, Berkowitz has now publicly sided with one of the most vocal advocates of laws preventing the sale of murderabilia, Andy Kahan of Houston, Texas. Kahan serves as victim’s advocate for the City of Houston and has fought murderabilia through a successful campaign to persuade eBay to pull such items from its site. He’s also pushed for the passage of laws prohibiting inmates from profiting from their infamy. While support appears to be growing for the legislation, some worry about the unintended consequences and first amendment issues raised by implementing such restrictions.

What do you think about the sale of convict memorabilia? Have you ever bought anything? Why or why not?

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