“Every day, the family members of victims are forced to re-live their tragedies as prisoners attempt to make a profit off of the notoriety of their case by selling these items on gruesome websites,” Cornyn said.
The Stop the Sale of Murderabilia Act would bar prisoners from mailing or having another person mail any object the prisoner intended to sell.
Cornyn was prompted to push for the legislation after it was reported that a letter from Nidal Hassan, recently convicted of killing 13 people and injuring 30 in a mass shooting at Fort Hood, was being offered for sale online.
“A letter penned by convicted Fort Hood terrorist Nidal Hasan in prison was posted for sale online,” Cornyn said. “While it has not yet been determined if Hasan deliberately attempted to profit off the sale of his letter, items like these are being sold by convicted serial killers and other criminals on a daily basis.”
Cornyn said that although some states have attempted to ban so-called murderabilia, he believes federal legislation is necessary. Several similar state laws have been overturned in courts for infringing on the First Amendment rights of publishers or others.
A revised New York law enacted in 2001 requires that victims be notified when a criminal may profit, and gives victims’ families time to sue for the proceeds of commercial deals or book sales.