Wednesday, March 24, 2010
A Right To Privacy…After Death
What’s worst than having a loved one brutally murdered? Having their murder exploited for sadistic and voyeuristic purposes. This is exactly what Hustler magazine aimed to do to the family of Meredith Emerson.
If you recall, Emerson was a 24-year-old University of Georgia graduate who was abducted on Jan. 1, 2008, while hiking with her dog on Blood Mountain trail in North Georgia. At some point during her hike, she came across Gary Michael Hilton who ultimately beat and decapitated her. In a deal, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty against Hilton if he took investigators to Emerson's remains. He is currently awaiting trial for Emerson’s murder.
Imagine the feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and despair that Meredith’s parents and loved ones have felt in the months since her gruesome murder. Well, if they were beginning to find a sense of equilibrium, they are likely now once again overwhelmed with emotion. Why? Well, apparently Hustler magazine has requested detailed information about Meredith’s crime scene, including shots of her decapitated body. In a statement, Hustler said the photos would be used in a news story about the crime….for newsworthy purposes. Right! (For those of you who may not be aware, Hustler is a pornographic publication.)
This, once again, sparked the debate about the public's right to know vs. the right to privacy of an individual. Although the magazine’s writer stated that he wanted to use the photos as “the best obtainable version of the truth," it is safe to say that there are many in the world who seek to profit from sadistic and morose situations. Just as there are websites, news stations, and magazines that are eager to show such graphic images, there are also everyday people who would want to view them. Sad…but so true.
Luckily, Hustler magazine’s request was met with outrage and opposition from lawmakers who vowed to push legislation exempting such photos from public release. John Bankhead, a GBI spokesman, said the agency declined Hustler’s request, and said the intent of the Georgia Open Records Act prohibits the release. However, this is apparently not good enough for Hustler’s publisher, Larry flint, who stated that the magazine is “exploring all legal options available to them should the decision be made to go forward with this story."
There are many that say that access to crime scene photos should be limited but not restricted. One example might be if someone is investigating a suspicious death that a coroner has ruled was caused by natural causes. However, the rights of the family must always be protected. Moreover, Meredith, and other victims like her, are unable to make their voice heard. Therefore, it is up to the rest of us to do all that we can to protect their name.
Victimization on any level should be illegal!
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