The personal saga of Madeira head-mistress Jean Harris and her late lover, Dr. Herman Tarnower, has attracted the interest of book publishers and movie moguls, but a New York state executive law signed in the wake of the Son of Sam case several years ago may mean Tarnower's survivors could share in any profits.
Harris' lawyer in New York, Joel Aurnou, says he's not yet negotiating with suitors bidding to chronicle the story of the very proper Jean Harris, who is charged with killing Tarnower, author of The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet. But outrage over the possibility of David Berkowitz cashing in on his murderous role as Son of Sam convinced the New York legislature to pass a law in 1977 permitting victims of crimes to share in the profits of any dramatic or literary projects growing out of those crimes. It's unclear whether any Tarnower heirs might have claim to monies Harris might receive if she chooses to participate in a book or movie based on her life and alleged crime.
However, the highly publicized murder of Tarnower in his Purchase, N.Y., home did have one immediate effect on the book market. His Scarsdale diet book, slipping lower on the Washington best-seller lists, shot back to the number one position with the headlines of his death.