Precedents

August 10, 1977


Over the course of a year, Yonkers postal worker David Berkowitz went on a murder spree that claimed six lives, left seven injured and set off the most extensive manhunt in New York City history.

He killed after dark, targeting brown-haired women and couples sitting in cars.

Using the pseudonym Son of Sam, he wrote letters that taunted the police while hinting at demonic possession, satanic cults and any number of psychosexual obsessions—all the ingredients for a lurid tell-all memoir.

After his arrest and confession, the New York state legislature took note of reports of a possible publishing deal for Berkowitz and passed the nation’s first law to bar criminals from profiting from the sale of their stories. The law was overturned in 1991 by the U.S. Supreme Court, but a more narrowly tailored version has survived judicial scrutiny. More than 40 states now have similar Son of Sam laws.

Berkowitz resides in the Sullivan Correctional Facility, where he is serving six life sentences.

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