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Letters: First the killing, then the selling

July 20, 2013

Re "The unsavory 'murderabilia' market," Opinion, July 18

In taking umbrage at convicted criminals profiting from their crimes, we need to distinguish between the sale of trivial items like fingernail clippings and works protected by the 1st Amendment such as books and art.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1991 and the California Supreme Court in 2002 found that so-called Son of Sam laws, which confiscated the proceeds earned by accused and convicted felons from the storytelling of their crimes, were unconstitutional violations of freedom of expression. The courts observed that works by Martin Luther King Jr., Patty Hearst and others would have also faced scrutiny under these laws.

The courts emphasized that the state has no compelling interest in shielding readers and victims from negative emotional responses to a criminal's public retelling of his or her misdeeds, pointing out that the protection of offensive and disagreeable ideas is at the core of the 1st Amendment.

Stephen F. Rohde

Los Angeles

The writer represented the plaintiff in Keenan vs. Superior Court, in which the California Supreme Court struck down the state's Son of Sam law.

After reading Caitlin Rother's Op-Ed article, I found on the "murderabilia" website an ad for the sale of autographed "prison-worn used panties." The owner of these panties is Dana Sue Gray, who murdered my mother, Dora Beebe, in March 1994.

Los Angeles Magazine wrote in 1998 that my mother's beating "dented the iron and left so much splatter that a bloody outline of her remained on the hallway wall."

The panties are listed for sale at $250. Shouldn't there be some law or rule that prohibits convicted murderers from profiting from their crimes in this way?

Julia Whitcombe

Pacific Palisades


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