Thursday, August 25, 2011

More disputes in Ka-Nefer-Nefer Mummy Mask Case

Cultural Heritage Lawyer (Ricardo St Hilaire)

In the latest round of legal papers filed in the case of United States v. Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM) says that its possession of the ancient Egyptian mummy mask cannot be likened to possession of cocaine as the US government's lawyers claim. (See July 31, 2011 blog post for background.)

SLAM's attorneys describe two kinds of contraband. They explain that there is contraband per se, which include items illegal to possess under any circumstance (author's note: think of counterfeit money) and which can be automatically confiscated by the government without a hearing. They also say that there is derivative contraband, which include lawful items that are forfeitable because they are connected with a crime (author's note: think of a car used in drug trafficking). SLAM argues that if the mask is in fact contraband, then it must be characterized as derivative contraband that is not automatically forfeitable. Because the mask is not automatically forfeitable contraband per se, SLAM argues that the government must present evidence that the object is forfeitable as an item that derives from a criminal act.

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