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State sues for convicted killer's money under 'Son-of-Sam' law

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State sues for convicted killer's money under 'Son-of-Sam' law09/23/96 CALIFORNIA--The state Attorney General filed suit in late August against Richard…

State sues for convicted killer’s money under ‘Son-of-Sam’ law

09/23/96

CALIFORNIA–The state Attorney General filed suit in late August against Richard Allen Davis, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the killing of 12-year-old Polly Klaas, after hearing reports that Davis had sold his story rights to the television show “Hard Copy.”

Attorney General Dan Lungren filed the complaint in Superior Court in Sacramento under a state statute mandating that profits earned by a convicted felon be held in trust for the crime victim’s family. “Hard Copy” has said that neither Davis nor his family were compensated for the interview.

The Supreme Court struck down a similar law on First Amendment grounds in 1991. In Simon & Schuster v. New York State Crime Victims Board, the court held that New York’s “Son of Sam” law impermissibly imposed a content-based financial burden on speech that it placed on no other speech or income.

While recognizing the state’s compelling interest, the court pronounced that statute overinclusive because it applied to works on any subject in which the author expressed thoughts or recollections about the crime, as well as to people who were never accused or convicted. The court noted that many states had enacted similar statutes, and suggested that, if drafted differently, they could survive constitutional scrutiny. (Lungren v. Davis)