Hustler magazine has requested, through Georgia’s Open Records Act, copies of documents related to the January 2008 murder and decapitation of hiker Meredith Emerson, but House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) is urging the GBI to deny the magazine’s request for crime scene photographs.
Ralston this morning told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he has asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to deny Hustler, a noted porn publication, copies of the photographs that show the 24-year-old Emerson’s nude and dismembered body.
Update 11:26 a.m.: John Bankhead, spokesman for the GBI, said the agency does not plan to release Emerson’s crime scene photos to the magazine.
“We feel like the intent of the legislation is not to release them,” Bankhead said. “This is just an affront to the victim’s family. It’s incredible that anybody would ask for something like this.”
Ralston said Rep. Jill Chambers (R-Atlanta) will introduce legislation in the House today to clear up what Ralston said was a gray area in state law. Chambers’ bill will exempt from the state’s sunshine laws any request for crime scene photographs that, among other things, depict nude bodies.
“I don’t have a problem with women who knowingly and willingly agree to be photographed and published in Hustler,” Chambers said. “But Meredith has no way to give permission to have her body exposed and lusted after by people who derive pleasure from this.”
Efforts to reach Hustler magazine at its Beverly Hills, Calif., headquarters were not immediately successful.
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Ralston said the state should fight the magazine should it push the issue.
“If Hustler wants to take us to court, let them take us to court,” Ralston said.
“I don’t know what the motivation of this magazine is to get these,” Ralston said. “I think it’s sickening and disgusting and vile to even make the request. I don’t see any value that can be served by having these materials released. It’s particularly troubling for the family.”
Ralston said he spoke on Sunday with Emerson’s mother in Colorado.
“They were, needless to say, extremely distraught over the possibility that this could even happen,” he said, adding that it’s his understanding the GBI denied the request for the photographs.
“I think it’s important to honor this young lady and her family and protect their family’s privacy,” Ralston said.
Bert Brantley, spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue, said it’s his understanding that Hustler requested more than just the photographs and that the GBI complied with the most of the request but did not release the photographs.
Emerson, who lived in Buford, was killed in January while hiking with her black Lab, Ella, in Dawson County. Gary Michael Hilton ultimately confessed to the murder and prosecutors agreed to not seek the death penalty against him if he would show them where he had left Emerson’s body. Hilton kidnapped Emerson on a Blood Mountain trail on New Year’s Day. He beat to her death and then cut off her head Jan. 4, leaving her body in the federal Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area.