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Cervantes: Selling a murder

BY CHRISTOPHER CERVANTES | NOVEMBER 10, 2014 5:00 AM

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People love it when bad things happen. It is not because we as a society like to see people in pain or others in suffering, but rather that we flock to it because it gives us something to talk about. We glorify the tragic and heartbreaking via news outlets, the film industry, and novels. It seems harmless enough, but that might change sooner than we think.

On Oct. 2, 1985, Michelle “Missy” Avila was murdered.  The perpetrators were the least likely suspects, her two closest friends. Of these two friends, the better known is Karen Severson, who was released from prison on Dec. 9, 2011. She has mostly kept a low profile, living a simple life as a telemarketer. Recently, though, she has promoted a book of hers, a memoir titled My Life, I lived It, which incorporates the murder if Michelle Avila, Severson’s trial, and her life after the event.

Needless to say, this action is not going unnoticed, nor is it proceeding without any obstacles.
The Avila family are doing everything in their power to stop Severson from profiting from the book.

They are even going as far as to try bring back the “Son of Sam” law to California. The law prevents convicted felons from making a profit from selling the tale and details of their crime. The thing is, this law was struck down in the state in 2002, citing it as a violation of the First Amendment.
And here we have the age-old conflict of social and moral ethics facing off against the constitutional doctrines of our nation.

Most of the time, I discuss (argue) with my roommate about these types of topics. My contribution to the conversation was my disgust of the issue and how unapologetic Severson seemed, stating that it was a matter of financial support. My roommate, being the true political-science major, brought up a good point.

“Yeah, it sucks, but there’s not a lot you can do. It’s just like when Hollywood makes a movie about the Zodiac Killer or Ted Bundy.”

Like most of the time, he’s right. While it may be tasteless for killers to write a memoir on their actions/crimes, there is no difference from any other best seller or blockbuster. And yes, while we do have the “Son of Sam” law, it is still seen as controversial for its apparent denial of free speech.

I do not hold Severson in high regard. In fact, I think she is despicable for resurrecting a family’s pain, 29 years after she cut the wound. However, I feel that we must protect a citizen’s right of freedom of speech.

There are certain people, such as Ku Klux Klan members, whom we just wish we could force to stop talking. But like it or not, they are American citizens, and as such they are entitled to express their opinions. We can criticize them until we get blue in the face, but we can’t force them to be silent.

On this matter, Irene Avila said, “Tell [Severson] to go to hell. I’m her worst nightmare.”

I recommend keeping an eye on what Severson and the Avila family are doing. The outcome of these events could prove to be significant in the grand scheme of things.


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