Son of Sam Law

Law Books

Many media outlets have been reporting that Washington doesn’t have a Son of Sam law. That’s not true. How effective it will be in the Colton Harris-Moore case is another question.

RCW 7.68.200:

A Son of Sam law prohibits criminals and their representatives from profiting from their crimes. New York enacted the first Son of Sam law in 1977 to prevent the law’s namesake, serial killer David Berkowitz, from making money off of the random murders he committed.

That law was struck down in 1991 even though most other states had enacted such laws in the meantime. That cleared the way for a mobster’s memoirs to be made into the movie Goodfellas. The ruling cited the First Amendment as its justification.

In 2000, the Washington State Court of Appeals decided that convicted child rapist Mary Kay Letourneau could profit from her crimes through books, movies, and such. I think certain monies were put into a trust for her lover and their children.

On that note, is our Son of Sam law going to prevent Harris-Moore or his mother from making money off of his victimization of others? My guess is that it won’t. Not in our permissive state. His attorneys will inevitably point at Letourneau and say, “well she did.”

Similarly, murderers in our state try to avoid the death penalty on the basis that Gary Ridgway didn’t get a death sentence for murdering 48 women. Ridgway’s life was spared because he pled guilty to those murders and led the police to some of his victims’ remains.

Interestingly, Gary Ridgway’s former wife was cleared to profit from her side of the story. She is the focus of the 2007 book Green River Serial Killer–Biography of an Unsuspecting Wife. Please note that she had no involvement in his crimes. I don’t know if she made any money off of it or not. But he can’t.

It’s pathetic that Harris-Moore can rob people and then make a living flaunting his feats. But unless our lawmakers change things or there’s a solid stipulation included in a plea bargain, he might do just that in spite of our law thanks to those who’ve blazed the trail for him.


Update: Evidently, in our state, RCW 7.68.020 defines a victim only as someone who has suffered bodily injury or death. There is also a physical harm requirement at the federal level (18 USC Section 3681).

But the premise of this blog entry holds; Son of Sam laws won’t prevent Harris-Moore and his family from profiting from his crime spree.

Only a stipulation in the plea bargain is likely to stop any profiteering. If such an agreement were made, it would likely be in exchange for reduced prison time.

Time to strengthen our laws!


David Berkowitz, like many inmates, claims to have accepted Jesus as his savior in prison. I believe that some convicts, especially the psychopaths, fabricate their conversions for personal gain. Parole is one reason to falsify personal reform.

But to say that it’s impossible for any incarcerated murderer to truly find God puts limits on God’s grace. As C.S. Lewis said, there will be surprises on the other side.

Decide for yourself. This is the first of six parts of a recent interview with Berkowitz. You can find the subsequent segments on the YouTube sidebar.

©2010 H. Hiatt/ All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/

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