Connecticut lawmakers pass bill to keep murder records secret

7 06 2013

This may sound familiar to Utahns: A bill drastically changing government-records laws is secretly drafted and rushed through with little time for public comment.

In a scenario reminiscent of the HB477 debacle, Connecticut lawmakers passed a bill that makes records of murder cases private. The bill, which was drafted in secret by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s staff, the state’s top prosecutor and leaders in the legislature, was a response to the Sandy Hook shootings, where a gunman killed 20 students and six teachers before committing suicide.

The bill, which did not go through the public hearing process and was passed at the end of the legislature’s session, exempts photos, film or digital images depicting homicide victims, as well as 911 calls describing the condition of a victim. It also shifts the burden of proof from the state to the requester, who has to make the case why a record should be released.

Malloy said the purpose of the bill was to protect the families from seeing the crime photos on the Internet. Some of the victims’ families support the move.

“I’m fully supportive of an open and transparent government, but I can’t understand how distributing graphic photos of murdered teachers and children serves any purpose other than causing our families more pain,” Dean Pinto, whose 6-year-old son, Jack, was killed in the school shooting, was quoted in reports as saying.

The law initially only dealt with the Sandy Hook case, but was expanded to cover all homicides in the Nutmeg State, which sets a bad precedent, critics warn.

“What they’re doing here is protecting the family … but it becomes a slippery slope,” said David Cuillier, president-elect of the Society of Professional Journalists. “Anything that makes someone uncomfortable, the government can make secret.”

H/t to the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press.

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News organization seeking records on Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting

17 04 2013

Two years after a gunman shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the head, documents about his case remain under government seal.
The Associated Press reports that three news organizations — The Washington Post, KPNX-TV in Phoenix and Phoenix Newspapers Inc., which publishes the Arizona Republic, want U.S. District Judge Larry Burns to unseal any remaining documents in the case, as well as release redacted information that is no longer required to be secret.
Giffords, a Democratic member of Congress, was shot in the head Jan. 8, 2011, by Jared Lee Loughner during a meet-and-greet outside a Tucson supermarket. Loughner, who pleaded guilty to 19 federal charges to avoid the death penalty, killed six people and wounded 12 other people.
Giffords resigned from Congress and is recovering from her injuries.
The Pima County Sheriff’s Office has released around 2,700 pages of documents, but at least four remain sealed, the Associated Press reported. The news organization argue that Loughner’s fair-trial rights are no longer at risk, and the information should be released.
Prosecutors have asked permission to take until May 8 to file their response to the request.