ATLANTA -- The House voted unanimously today to block distribution of crime-scene photos that show dismembered body or the victim's genitals.
With little debate, the House quickly approved and immediately sent to the Senate legislation supported by House Speaker David Ralston. It was in response to the request from Hustler magazine for copies of crime-scene photos from the 2008 murder of recent University of Georgia graduate Meredith Emerson, whose nude and dismembered body was found days after her kidnapping while hiking in North Georgia.
Ralston assigned Rep. Jill Chambers, R-Atlanta, to formally sponsor the legislation because she has been a champion in previous sessions for opening more government documents to the public.
Chambers told her colleagues that the Open Records Act was never intended to allow for the release of crime-scene photos to be used for sensationalism.
"Meredith Emerson wanted to make a difference in this world," Chambers said. "Passage of this bill will prohibit the exploitation of crime victims, future and current ones."
Credentialed journalists would be able to inspect the photos under supervision by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. And the legislation would not block the release of all photos from crime scenes like Emerson's, Chambers said, only those that actually show her genitals or mutilation.
Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers said earlier in the day that the Senate would also act quickly to pass the bill.