Gainesville Ripper Serial Killer Photos: Right to Privacy?
The Gainesville Ripper Photos and Meredith Emerson and Dawn Brancheau Privacy Case
When Sonja Larson was murdered by a serial killer known as the Gainesville Ripper in 1990, her mother Ada Larson fought hard to seal her autopsy and crime scene photos from the media and the public eye. With the passing of the Meredith Emerson Memorial Privacy Act and people wanting to get a look at the Dawn Brancheau killer whale attack video, questions are starting to emerge again on the publics' right to know information versus a crime victim and their family's right to privacy.
The Gainesville Ripper
Danny Harold Rollings was a serial killer who became known as the Gainesville Ripper when he killed five college students from Florida in 1990. He left his female victims' corpses mutilated and posed in a grotesque manner and as a result the media wanted to obtain rights to the photos and release them to the public.
"We did not want our loved ones to be put out there in the scenes where they where found, because he was a butcher, and he was cruel," Larson said from her home in Florida.
The result of the court battle was that a Judge ruled that the public and the media could view the over 700 graphic crime scene photos, but that no copies of the photos could be made.
Ada Larson never saw the photos and while people could view them, no copies in any media could be made so they were not 'released' to the public the same way that Hustler Magazine wanted to obtain copies of the Meredith Emerson murder scene and print them in their magazine.
Meredith Emerson Murder Case
Meredith Emerson was murdered by Gary Michael Hilton on January 1 2008; her body was found nude and decapitated and Hustler Magazine requested photos of her body. Meredith Emerson's family fought back and as a result the Meredith Emerson Memorial Privacy Act was created, where no photos of any victims who are bloody, bruised, nude or in a 'broken state' will be allowed to be copied or reproduced if the bill is signed in to law.
Tilikum Killer Whale Attack Video
A new court case started in March 2010 has seen the debate start once again with certain parties wanting access to the video of Tilikum the Killer Whale attacking trainer Dawn Brancheau at Sea World. A temporary injunction against the release of the video was granted and mediation has been ordered.
In this case, the media wants access to view the video.
The Publics' Right to Know Versus the Right to Privacy
These three examples are just some of the cases that center around the publics' right to know versus the right of a victims' family to privacy. As in the case of the Gainesville Ripper and Sonja Larson, the media and public were allowed to view the photos but none were ever allowed to be released.
In the age of the Internet however, is anything ever truly kept a secret and would the instant distribution of material mean that in some cases the damage has already been done before the matter even gets to court?
Many believe that the public deserves to see evidence for themselves and it is their choice if they want to look or not.
There is a legitimate argument for both sides, what do you think?