In a legislative move designed to circumvent a recent California Supreme Court ruling holding that California's "Son of Sam" law (which prohibited prisoners from profiting from their crime stories) was unconstitutional, Senate Bill 1887 was passed and signed into law effective September 17, 2002.
The court had held in Keenan v. Superior Ct., 27 Cal.4 th 413 (2002) (PLN, 2 002) that the earlier "Son of Sam" law violated the First Amendment because its unmistakable effect was to suppress free speech.
The new law, amending §340.3 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, was described by Governor Davis as "an ingenious way of getting the same result." It permits prisoners to still write about their crimes, but extends the time period for victims to sue them for their profits to ten years after the prisoner is discharged from parole.
In Keenan, the celebrated kidnapper of Frank Sinatra, Jr. was permitted to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sale of the movie rights to his crime story. Keenan's attorney, Stephen F. Rohde, agreed with Sinatra's attorney that the new extension of the statute of limitations "lacks the true import of a victims' rights statute," because "you can't get the funds before they are paid to the criminal and by the time you get a judgment, the money won't be there anymore."
On October 7, 2002, the US Supreme Court denied Sinatra's petition for certiorari in Keenan, giving Keenan the green light to collect his movie rights payments. See: Sinatra v. Keenan, USSC No. 01-1730 (2002); San Francisco Daily Journal, 9/17/02, 10/8/02.
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