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Queens Chronicle

Emanuel Gold, Forest Hills state senator who wrote first 'Son of Sam' law, dies at 77

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Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013 10:30 am

Former state Sen. Emanuel Gold (D-Forest Hills), who wrote more than 80 laws including the the nation’s first “Son of Sam” law to prevent criminals from profiting from their crimes through book or movie rights, died last week.

He was 77. Services took place Sunday afternoon at Parkside Memorial Chapels on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, with legions of elected officials past and present turning out to pay their respects to Gold’s family.

Gold served one term in the state Assembly before a special election in 1971 that led to a 28-year career in the state Senate. He represented Forest Hills in the old 13th District, and served as Deputy Minority Leader for the Democrats for 16 years.

Published sources state that he was routinely re-elected with overwhelming majorities, garnering more than 90 percent of the vote on four occasions.

In 1977 Gold wrote the first ever “Son of Sam” law in the United States, which allowed crime victims to benefit financially should notorious criminals sell publishing or movie rights to their stories.

The law was written in the wake of a series of shootings by David Berkowitz in New York City between July 1976 and August 1977 that left six people dead and seven wounded. He referred to himself as the Son of Sam in letters sent to police and the media during the 13-month manhunt.

Five of the attacks took place in Queens, resulting in the deaths of Christine Freund, 26, and Virginia Voskerichian, 20, and the wounding of six others.

When the law was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991 on First Amendment grounds, Gold worked to craft a new version eliminating the deficiencies found by the high court.

Numerous U.S. states have since followed Gold’s blueprint to draft similar laws of their own.

During his career he also wrote laws covering health and medicine, education, banking and finance and the rights of the disabled.

One law mandated at least minimal levels of treatment for all patients who show up in New York City hospital emergency rooms.

Another introduced more precise labeling of prescription medications to make their identification easier in the event of a patient having a medical emergency.

He practiced law after leaving the Legislature.

Gold is survived by his wife, Judith, and two children. He was predeceased by two sons.

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