Court: State must pay legal fees over 'In Cold Blood' notes


WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas must pay legal fees arising from its efforts to stop publication of notebooks kept by the lead investigator into the murders of a Kansas family chronicled in Truman Capote’s book “In Cold Blood.”

The Kansas Court of Appeals ruled last week that the state must pay more than $168,000 to attorneys representing the investigator’s son and a literary memorabilia dealer in Seattle, KCUR reported .

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt sued in 2012 to prevent the publication or selling of notes from Harold Nye, who led the KBI’s investigation into the killings of the Herb Clutter family in 1959 in Holcomb, Kansas. Capote’s book drew international attention to the murders.

The state argued that Nye’s material belonged to Kansas because he was a state employee. Kansas officials also argued that the Clutter family’s privacy concerns justified blocking their release.

Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks in 2012 granted the state’s request for a temporary order blocking the sale or publication of the notebooks. But he reversed himself in 2014 , saying the notes’ publication or sale were protected by the First Amendment and the Kansas Constitution. He also ordered the state to pay legal fees to Nye’s son, Ronald, and Gary McAvoy, an author and literary memorabilia dealer.

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McAvoy said during the litigation, the state argued that Harold Nye was a liar and thief.

“For me, it’s not about the money,” McAvoy said in a phone interview. “It’s the righting of an injustice. They dragged Harold Nye’s good name through the mud in the process. Not only was it wrong and unfair, it was almost like win-at-any-cost on their part.”

A spokesman for the Kansas Attorney General’s office declined to comment on the appeals court ruling.

Harold Nye kept the case files at his home. Hendricks ruled in 2014 that Ronald Nye’s constitutional right to publish the material outweighed the government’s desire to keep its investigative records confidential. Harold Nye worked for the Kansas bureau from 1955 until his retirement in 1975; he was its director from 1969 to 1971.

McAvoy used the notebooks to write a book on the Clutter killings. “And Every World Is True,” which was published recently, contains a forward and material from Ronald Nye.

Herb Clutter, his wife and two of their four children were bound and gagged and shot to death at their farm in near Holcomb. The killers, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, were arrested six weeks after the murders and eventually executed.

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