Troy’s Latest Crusade

Meant to blog about this yesterday . . . 

Just in time to distract us from his latest problems, Troy King once again has an opportunity to preen about how much he hates criminals:

Killers on Alabama’s Death Row who are selling works of art that appear to depict their victims may be violating the law, state officials said Tuesday.

Alabama Attorney General Troy King has opened an investigation into the posting on Internet auction sites of sketches and paintings by Death Row inmates Jack Trawick and Daniel Siebert.

“We expect to send a letter to operators demanding they stop providing a forum for this art work,” said King, who called the postings “atrocious.”

And I’m sure the operators will respond with a hearty laugh and a single digit solute.

Here’s King’s argument for shutting down the forum (emphasis added):

Alabama’s version of a “Son of Sam” law has broad language that bars prisoners and anyone who has a contract with them from profiting from any expression of a “person’s thoughts, feelings, opinions or emotions” regarding their crimes, Deputy Attorney General Kenneth Steely said. That includes works of art, he said.

The law doesn’t prohibit the sale of the images or of book or movie rights. But it does require that any money made on such a deal be turned over to the state Board of Adjustment. Conviction for failure to do so can lead to a prison sentence of one to 10 years.

“The money’s got to be going somewhere,” Steely said of the sale of the inmates’ art. “We’re looking into it.”

Bzzt. Wrong answer. This is the actual law, codified at 41-9-80 of the Alabama Code (emphasis added):

Every person, firm, corporation, partnership, association or other legal entity contracting with any person or the representative or assignee of any person, indicted or convicted of a felony in this state, with respect to the reenactment of such crime, by way of a movie, book, magazine article, radio or television presentation, live entertainment of any kind, or from the expression of such person’s thoughts, feelings, opinions or emotions regarding such crime, shall pay over to the Board of Adjustment any moneys which would otherwise, by terms of such contract, be owing to the person so convicted or his representatives.

Any person, firm, corporation, partnership, association or other legal entity who fails to pay said moneys to the Board of Adjustment shall be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than 10 years and by a fine equal to the net proceeds earned as a result of the reenactment of the crime.

The company selling the work can reap all the profits it wants, the only person who doesn’t get anything is the criminal.  The only way the operators get into trouble is if they paid the criminal for the work instead of turning it over to the Board. Even then, the penalty is a fine or imprisonment, King has no authority to shut down the forum or prevent publication of the “art.”

But this is all academic. Like the paper said, “Alabama’s version of a “Son of Sam” law has broad language.” So did the original version of this law, the one Alabama cut and pasted into our code. That broad language is the reason a unanimous Scotus has already declared the original version – New York’s Son of Sam law – unconstitutional in the case of Simon & Schuster, Inc., v. Members of New York State Crime Victim’s Bd

As a means of ensuring that victims are compensated from the proceeds of crime, the Son of Sam law is significantly overinclusive. As counsel for the Board conceded at oral argument, the statute applies to works on any subject, provided that they express the author’s thoughts or recollections about his crime, however tangentially or incidentally. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 30, 38; see also App. 109. In addition, the statute’s broad definition of “person convicted of a crime” enables the Board to escrow the income of any author who admits in his work to having committed a crime, whether or not the author was ever actually accused or convicted. 632-a(10)(b).

These two provisions combine to encompass a potentially very large number of works. Had the Son of Sam law been in effect at the time and place of publication, it would have escrowed payment for such works as The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which describes crimes committed by the civil rights leader before he became a public figure; Civil Disobedience, in which Thoreau acknowledges his refusal to pay taxes and recalls his experience in jail; and even the Confessions of Saint Augustine, in which the author laments “my past foulness and the carnal corruptions of my soul,” one instance of which involved the theft of pears from a neighboring vineyard. See A. Haley & Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X 108-12 (1964); H. Thoreau, Civil Disobedience 18-22 (1849, reprinted 1969); The Confessions of Saint Augustine 31, 36-37 (Franklin Library ed. 1980). Amicus Association of American Publishers, Inc., has submitted a sobering bibliography listing hundreds of works by American prisoners and ex-prisoners, many of which contain descriptions of the crimes for which the authors were incarcerated, including works by such authors as Emma Goldman and Martin Luther King, Jr. A list of prominent figures whose autobiographies would be subject to the statute if written is not difficult to construct: the list could include Sir Walter Raleigh, who was convicted of treason after a dubiously conducted 1603 trial; Jesse Jackson, who was arrested in 1963 for trespass and resisting arrest after attempting to be served at a lunch counter in North Carolina; and Bertrand Russell, who was jailed for seven days at the age of 89 for participating in a sit-down protest against nuclear weapons. The argument that a statute like the Son of Sam law would prevent publication of all of these works is hyperbole – some would have been written without compensation – but the Son of Sam law clearly reaches a wide range of literature that does not enable a criminal to profit from his crime while a victim remains uncompensated.

No doubt the particular images in this situation are atrocious, and that the folks displaying them are probably scum. But King is wasting our resources in order to make himself look good.

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9 Comments on “Troy’s Latest Crusade”

  1. walt moffett Says:

    “… wasting our resources in order to make himself look good” Is a frequent habit of our politicans.

    I remeber Siebert’s case, since I was a nodding acquaintance of one of his victims. Seems to me that him and Traywick are both playing “Kill me if you can”.

    Wonder why the prison is not using the flat statement from the Postal Service that inmate mail is not confidential and maybe censored at will. A step reccommended by the Postal Inspection Service.

  2. wheeler Says:

    “Wonder why the prison is not using the flat statement from the Postal Service that inmate mail is not confidential and maybe censored at will.”

    dunno. i think i read in either this article or another one that it was mostly due to administrative expenses. i.e. they don’t have the manpower to open and inspect all the mail.

  3. Dystopos Says:

    I suppose they might find the manpower and resources to open the mail of prisoners about whom complaints had been lodged to be more affordable than the manpower and resources needed to investigate and prosecute a case against the eBay resellers.

  4. walt moffett Says:

    I would think censoring mail of Death Row prisoners would take some priority, especially, where in Traywick’s case this has been a problem before. But given a choice between having a guard reading mail or walking his post, I know which one is more likely to save lives. So, when it comes down to it, we get the prison system we are willing to pay for.

  5. publius Says:

    now that King believes he has found a regulable commercial speech target like the prison art web vendors the question becomes does he have the wits to make the argument. I offer him an easier target than death row inmates, yes its true, there are targets who can do more harm to us. Felons currently walk the halls of the Alabama Statehouse as professional lobbyists. Yes, even the Alabama Ethics Commission willingly takes their fees and backslaps them out the door.
    Are you tired of corruption? Why ban Pac to Pac while allowing convicted jailbird felons to continue to work their devilment on our wallets and lives. People like King are too naive to get it or morally too challenged to stand up to the lobbyists.
    Lobbying is commercial speech and is reviewed under a rational basis analysis. That means the state can do what it pleases as long as its rationally related. I assume the public trust, the faith alabamians have in our state govt is a rational goal to a modest, yet powerful regulation. Troy, grow a spine and ban felons from our govt. felon lobbyists do more damage to more people than any single child molester does.

  6. Beth Guay Says:

    Well I have read what you have to say and thought I would comment.My mother was Murdered by Daniel Siebert March 8th,1986.I guess until you have walked the walk or endured what we have you would not understand our thoughts.I myself have been corresponding with many in Alabama including Troy King for many years, as to the web sites, art work,books & groups that have been formed by Siebert. I have read his journal many times word for word, minute by minute & day by day.Here is a man that has taken so many lives,last count around 20, 8 before murdering Linda, Linda,Sherri & her two childrens Chad & Joesph 3 & 5 years of age all of Alabama Febuary 19,1986 all in one night, My Mom March 8th,1986 and several others after the mentioned above. I thank Troy King and have Thanked him in the past many times for the work he has done and continues to do on our behalf. It is not the “issue” of money..To any of us,I think you are all to quick to form your opinions without knowing all of the information. For 21 years now I have as a tax payer cared for Siebert-He is suppose to be on death row?? He will never be tried for Murdering my Mother & many others. Its bad enough that we have to except the choices Siebert has made in our lives thus far,but now after reading his writtings he has all the answers-So he thinks.He has,they have more rights than the families left behind let alone the victims their selfs.It isn’t about who’s making money and where it is going other than on death row what they are doing and allowed to do.And how it was done. Not once in Sieberts writtings as he ever acknowledged what he has done to many of us,only what the law is doing to him.The only thing he is truly sorry for is being caught.So I thank Troy King & others for relizing how this effects us left behind. And the things we have had to learn to live with day in and out.

  7. wheeler Says:


    no one doubts that 1) you have suffered immensley, 2) seibert is scum, 3) the writings and artwork are atrocious.

    while those three facts certainly make a moral case for stopping the writings and artwork, they do NOT give troy king the legal authority to do so.

    further, i’d much rather let people like seibert publish “art” like his rather then give troy king or anyone elese the legal authority to decide what people can and cannot write, publish, or print.

  8. Beth Guay Says:

    I think you are missing the point.It sounds as though you have problems with Troy King above & beyond this issue.Mr.Siebert gave up all his rights as a member of society when he pleated guilty to the murders of so many. We the victims need help from people such as Troy King with many issues.I can’t believe anyone would want to have a loved one murdered and then be able to read about it over & over again , and how,when,where but most of all using your loved ones name.Surly if the system was fair-Mr. Siebert should of been executed way before now.The legal system is not what it should be.What we have been told for years now is-“What is legal” Is Siebert has more rights than us.He should have no rights to do anything much more than breath.

  9. Dina Tietz Says:

    I have to say…THANK YOU TROY KING….for doing what is right! Daniel Siebert murdered my grandmother 21 years ago, when I was 11 years old (I am Beths daughter). And yes you are right.. 1) WE HAVE SUFFERED IMMENSLEY 2)SIEBERT IS SCUM and 3) THE WRITING AND ARTWORK ARE ATROCIOUS! However, that does NOT give him the right to do his art or writings and have them posted on the internet. The day he took ALL of his victims lives, his freedoms, liberties, and opportunities to fullfill his abilities to display these items shouldn’t even be up for discussion in any legal way. He nor anyone one dealth row should be allowed to have the right to offer these web sites their art or writings. THEY ARE ON DEATH ROW! Another words…locked in 23 out of 24 hours a day. A threat to society, there rights no longer exist unless it pretains to why they are on death row. We are well aware that deathrow inmates are not suppose to have access to the internet…Hello!!!! The true SCUM are those who are willing to post these discrasefull pieces. And for what?? Oh yeah…The all mightly dollar!!! SHAME ONE YOU!!!!!

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