Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Lawman’s Son Can Revisit ‘In Cold Blood’

(CN) - The story of the murders described in Truman Capote's classic "In Cold Blood" can be retold by the son of one of the investigators of the case, a Kansas district judge ruled.

As anyone familiar with the Capote book or the 1967 film based on it knows, Herb Clutter and three members of his family were killed in 1959 in Holcomb, Kan.

The brutal and meaningless slaying of the family - the murderers thought, wrongly, that Clutter kept large sums of money in his home -- paralyzed their tiny Midwestern community.

Capote learned of the murders from a brief item in The New York Times, and couldn't get it out of his mind, eventually using it as the basis of "true-crime novel."

Richard Hickock and Perry Smith were ultimately found guilty of the crime, and were executed in 1965.

Special Agent Harold Nye of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation was one of the principal investigators of the murder, and he kept a pair of notebooks on the case in a secure location, hidden even from his family.

His wife, Joyce, did not like the fact that Harold had this information in the house and feared that the FBI would come after them.

Harold's son, Ronald Nye, is working with Gary McAvoy on an eBook tentatively titled "The Nye Journals and What Truman Capote Left Out."

Ronald claimed that after his father died, his mother threw the notebooks away, and Ronald rescued them out of the trash can.

The state of Kansas asked the Shawnee County District Court for an injunction to prevent Ronald Nye and McAvoy from publishing Harold's notebooks.

In response, the defendants argued that the injunction would violated their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

The district court granted the temporary injunction in 2012.

The state sought a permanent injunction, arguing that its interest in the confidentiality of criminal records trumps the defendants' First Amendment rights.

However, the district court ruled in Ronald Nye's favor and denied the permanent injunction, ruling that he received ownership of the notebooks when his mother threw them away.

"The plaintiff has not articulated a legal justification for suppressing the Nye material as the least restrictive means of restricting speech," Judge Larry D. Hendricks wrote, "or for interfering with the public's right to know what is in the Nye material."

The judge refuted the state's argument that a Florida investigation had reopened the case.

"At best information is being provided to the Florida authorities," Hendricks wrote, "but an investigation into the Clutter murders cannot be reopened when the killers have been captured, tried, convicted and executed."

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.