Crime

Friday A/V Club: The Writer, the Serial Killer, and the Goddess of Chaos

A bizarre moment on Court TV.

|


The true-crime author Sondra London achieved some fame in the 1990s by writing about serial killers, collaborating with them on their own writing, and—notoriously—getting romantically involved with one of her subjects. Her work with the Florida murderer Danny Rolling, to whom she was engaged for a while, led to a court case in 1997, and that in turn led to one of the most bizarre moments ever to air on Court TV.

First, here's some background on the case, courtesy of The New York Times:

Colin Wilson finds another outsider to write about.
Feral House

Judge Martha Ann Lott found that the collaborations of the writer, Sondra London, with Danny Rolling, who murdered five college students, were subject to a Florida law that bars convicted felons from profiting from their stories, artwork and autographs….

The Florida law under which the state sued Ms. London is a version of New York's "Son of Sam" law, named for the serial killer David Berkowitz, who signed his letters to reporters "Son of Sam."

Wednesday's ruling was the first to use such a law against an author collaborating with a convicted felon. The New York law was ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in 1991, but the Florida law, retooled by the Legislature in the wake of that decision, has never been challenged in appellate court.

Judge Lott's written ruling found that Ms. London shared a unique and special relationship with Mr. Rolling and that the law could be applied to her just as it could to him.

The judge specifically mentioned contracts between the two, love letters they had exchanged, their one-time engagement and a marriage they conducted on the Internet.

One more thing about London: She was friends with Kerry Thornley, the co-founder of the prank religion Discordianism.

So here is the Court TV clip, which begins with a bizarre discussion of that "marriage they conducted on the Internet"—you may get the impression that in 1997, some people were still unclear on just what this cyberspace thing was—and then gets even weirder when the subject of Discordianism comes up:

Somewhere out there, there's somebody who stumbled on that while channel-surfing and still hasn't quite recovered.

Bonus links: For past installments of the Friday A/V Club, go here. And for a perhaps-more-lucid explanation of Discordianism, check out chapter nine of this book.