For the umpteenth time, a journalist documenting a serial killer has tried to conduct research by relying on the principle of Freedom of Information, yet he has encountered the old saw about making a "profit" off crime. (I've always found that an annoying and inexplicable accusation.) This time, though, he's got an attorney, and he won the legal battle.
True crime author Mark Pettit penned a book about a serial killer who has since been executed for murdering children. The book he wrote is A Need to Kill: A True-Crime Account of John Joubert, Nebraska's Most Notorious Serial Child Killer. His research revealed that prison authorities confiscated drawings by the killer, done on death row, depicting his fantasy of repeating his crimes.
Pettit spent years trying to get a look at the drawings, intending to share them with forensic psychiatrists for analysis. Finally, he filed suit in a case that ended up in a bench trial. He had support for his quest, including testimony from the leading deputy in the Joubert case. But the State accused the author of nothing more than "morbid curiosity." The trial judge, in an extraordinary act of legal bravery, ruled in favor of the author. Here's three cheers for the Nebraska legal system as embodied by Lancaster County District Judge Steven Burns, who could have made an easier call but instead made the right ruling in a victory for Free Speech and Freedom of the Press.
Alas, the State is appealing.