Friday, March 12, 2010

Georgia Solons Out-Hustle Hustler Nude Photo Request

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 26:  Publisher Larry Flynt ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Georgia's House Committee on Government Affairs has unanimously pushed through the Meredith Emerson Memorial Privacy Act sponsored by Rep. Jill Chambers (R.-Atlanta), creating a further obstacle for Hustler magazine, which requested photographs depicting the murdered nude and decapitated hiker under Georgia's Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. sec. 50-18-70).

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R.-Blue Ridge) rushed House Bill 1322 to a committee vote out of concern that Hustler magazine would appeal DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Daniel Coursey's temporary injunction entered at the behest of Emerson's family prohibiting the Georgia Bureau of Investigation from releasing photos portraying Meredith Emerson in an "unclothed or dismembered state." Emerson's body was found in the north Georgia mountains Jan. 7, 2008, six days after her disappearance, with the assistance of her confessed killer Gary Michael Hilton, who received a life sentence for the crime.

According to accounts in the Chatanooga Times Free Press and CNN,  H.B. 1322 permits credentialed journalists, lawyers, and law enforcement personnel to view explicit photos such as those in the Emerson case at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, but does not allow such photos to be reproduced. Hustler magazine is weighing its next move in response to passage of the bill.

As distasteful and invasive of privacy the photos at issue may be, it remains to be seen whether the actions taken by lawmakers and family members in this case could withstand a First Amendment challenge by Hustler.

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