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Andrew Kull
Thu, 20 Feb 1997 12:50:07 -0500
Restitution for Wrongs (OJ's Case)


As a note to anyone interested in pursuing this topic -- that is, potential liability in restitution for business profits (such as book or film royalties) traceable to a crime such as murder -- it may be worth mentioning the recent and significant (but abortive) statutory initiative in this direction in the US. New York, followed by perhaps 30 other states, enacted a statute designed to capture royalties that would otherwise be payable to authors of works based on or describing the authors' crimes: the funds would be held in trust by the state for the victims of the crimes in question, with a board of trustees authorized to pass on claims and make allocations ex aequo et bono. The statute was called the "Son of Sam Law," after a serial killer of that name who -- as the legislature feared -- was likely to sell a first-person account of his career to the tabloids for large sums.

Readers of this list will see the obvious restitutionary implications of such a statute, more clearly even (I imagine) than did the NY legislature. All was cut short by the US Supreme Court, which threw out the entire scheme as an unconstitutional restraint on the freedom of the press. The Sup Ct opinion is very disappointing from a restitutionary point of view, since it is essentially oblivious to the private-law justifications of such a statute; but it is the most easily accessible source of information on the New York statute and the circumstances that gave rise to it. Simon & Schuster, Inc. v. New York State Crime Victims Board, 502 US 105 (1991).


Andrew Kull

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