Some states are banning prisoners and third parties from selling “murderabilia” like a lock of Charles Manson’s hair, dirt from the crawl space where John Wayne Gacy hid his victimsa, and foot scrapings from the “Texas Railroad Killer.” reports the Christian Science Monitor. The newspaper asks whether the category should include items like prized poetry penned by a Florida death row inmate, artwork being sold around the world by a man on Texas death-row, and short stories from women in a Connecticut prison, one of whom won a prestigious PEN award.
Texas inmate James Allridge, scheduled for execution Aug. 26 for his part in the murder of a convenience store clerk, has been helping support his legal defense by selling his art over the Internet. Actress and death- row opponent Susan Sarandon, a customer, visited him last month. “You can paint all you want; you can draw all you want. But you shouldn’t be able to profit off it,” says Andy Kahan of Houston’s Victims Assistance Center. Kahan, who pushed the murderabilia law through the legislature in 2001, wants to see it applied to Allridge. Others disagree. “To put his art in the murderabilia category is totally off base. He’s never done his art to try to profit off of it or profit off his situation,” says David Atwood, a death-penalty activist and friend of Allridge. “His art is representative of his personal development. And isn’t that what we want all prisoners to do: to develop to their greatest possibility, to become artists, writers, intellectuals? They shouldn’t be criticized for that. They should be applauded.”