Slain hiker’s family files suit to bar release of photos to Hustler

Georgia – from www.ajc.com – The family of slain hiker Meredith Emerson is seeking a court order barring the GBI from releasing crime-scene photos of the Buford woman’s nude and dismembered body to Hustler Magazine.

The magazine’s recent Open Records Act request for the gruesome photos of Emerson’s decapitated body has been condemned by state lawmakers and law enforcement. After the GBI denied the request, Hustler and its publisher, Larry Flynt, said they disagreed with the decision and were exploring legal options.

On Tuesday, Emerson’s family filed suit against the GBI to obtain a court order barring the photos’ release. A judge is expected to hear arguments regarding the request Wednesday afternoon.

“The release of pictures of Meredith as she was found by investigators after her murder would be an outrageous and intolerable invasion of the privacy of Meredith and her family,” the slain hiker’s mother, Susan Emerson, said in an affidavit accompanying the suit.

“The disclosure to anybody of the pictures would cause deep and serious emotional pain, embarrassment, humiliation and sadness for me an the entire family,” she said. “The disclosure of the pictures is unwanted, unwarranted and exploitative.”

Susan Emerson said she has to live everyday “with the tragic death of my daughter and to know that the pictures were disclosed to the public and that they may be published further would bring further stress and strife over what is already too much sadness to bear.”

Merdith Emerson, a 24-year-old University of Georgia graduate, was abducted Jan. 1, 2008, while hiking Blood Mountain trail in North Georgia. Gary Michael Hilton, a military veteran from South Florida, beat Emerson to death and cut off her head.

Fred Rosen, a true crime author who is working on a story on the case for Hustler and writing a book about Hilton, said in an interview that he wants to see the photos to better understand what happened to Emerson.

But House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) called the request “sickening and disgusting and vile” and vowed to push the “Meredith Emerson Privacy Act” through the Legislature, barring the release of such photos in the future. Rep. Jill Chambers (R-Atlanta) said she will introduce the bill next week.

The Emerson family’s lawsuit said the crime-scene photos “contain intimate details about the body of Meredith Emerson because she is seen naked, exposed and dismembered.”

Both Emerson and her family have privacy rights to images of the slain hiker’s body, the suit said. “The image of Meredith’s naked body is a private affair in which the public has no legitimate concern or interest.”

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