True-Crime Writer Loses Claim for Killer’s Art

     (CN) – An investigative reporter who is writing a book on Nebraska killer cannot access drawings the inmate made from death row, the state Supreme Court ruled.
     When Mark Pettit was an investigative reporter in Omaha, Neb., he covered the case of John Joubert, who was eventually executed for the 1983 murders of two children.
     Pettit says Joubert confessed to a string of violent crimes during his interviews with the killer on death row, and that Pettit admitted to still fantasizing about murdering children.
     When Joubert told Pettit that he made two graphic drawings of these fantasies, but that prison officials had confiscated the drawings on May 5, 1987, Pettit asked the state to turn them over.
     Joubert even wrote a letter in 1988, authorizing the release of the drawings to Pettit, but the warden refused, citing Joubert’s appeals.
     Pettit renewed his request in 2013 as the 30th anniversary of Joubert’s crimes neared, but the Department of Correctional Services said that the drawings in Joubert’s institutional file “were not subject to further dis­closure.”
     After Pettit filed suit, claiming that Joubert’s drawings were “educational,” “historical” and significant,” the Lancaster County District Court ordered DCS to let Pettit inspect, examine and reproduce the drawings.
     “The court accepts that the drawings may be useful to law enforcement officers in further understanding the psychology of serial killers, at least those similar to Joubert,” the trial court had said.
     Reversing on Aug. 7, however, the Nebraska Supreme Court noted that an inmate’s file must be kept confidential except for a showing of good cause.
     “Although Pettit also offered a scholarly or forensic purpose, it was purely speculative,” Justice William Cassel wrote for the court.
     Though Pettit claims that police can learn about serial killers from the drawings, the court said he “presented no evidence that he possessed any scientific or other qualifications to make such a judgment.”
     “And he offered no evidence from any expert in psychology or penology supporting his belief regarding the value of such an examination,” the ruling states.

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