A Proposal for a New Massachusetts Notoriety for Profit Law: The Grandson of Sam

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Western New England College School of Law




In recent years, two women stood convicted of highly publicized major crimes in Massachusetts. Katherine Ann Power ("Power") was a fugitive who committed felony-murder in 1970. She led a life on the run as a fugitive until 1993 when she revealed her true identity and surrendered to authorities to face the consequences of her crimes. Louise Woodward ("Woodward"), an au pair originally from England, gained notoriety on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean when she was convicted of killing the baby entrusted to her care. Both women captured the attention of the national media for months and reportedly had opportunities to sell their images, stories, and opinions for huge amounts of money. The court system, however, dealt with these infamous defendants in two drastically different ways. In the Power case, the sentencing judge made it a specific condition of her probation that she could never profit from her crime. Woodward's sentence, by contrast, did not include any conditions to keep her from profiting from her notoriety. A lesson to be learned from the differential handling of these cases is that Massachusetts needs a law that specifically addresses whether and to what extent a criminal may profit from his or her heinous, albeit sensational, crimes. A notoriety-for-profit law would provide a means of regulating these high profile situations in a manner that consistently protects the rights of people whose victimizers have become media stars.

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