What’s This All About?

Connecticut lawmakers are up to something strange. They are trying to block public access to records concerning the Sandy Hook school massacre.

The Hartford Courant reports:

The staffs of the state’s top prosecutor and the governor’s office have been working in secret with General Assembly leaders on legislation to withhold records related to the police investigation into the Dec. 14 Newtown elementary school massacre — including victims’ photos, tapes of 911 calls, and possibly more.

The behind-the-scenes legislative effort came to light Tuesday when The Courant obtained a copy of an email by a top assistant to Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, Timothy J. Sugrue. Sugrue, an assistant state’s attorney, discussed options considered so far, including blocking release of statements “made by a minor.”

The bill that’s being crafted has not been handled under routine legislative procedures — it hasn’t gone through the committee process, which includes a public hearing, for example. Sugrue’s email Tuesday indicated that a draft of the bill was being worked on by leaders in both the House and Senate, and might be ready as soon as the end of the day.

Even the New York Times blasted them in an editorial:

Sensitivity to the families’ concerns does not justify a gross overreach that would curb access to the kinds of police records to which the public has a right. According to The Hartford Courant, which discovered the secret proposal last week, the police and any government agency would be empowered to prevent the public release of photos, digital and audio recordings, death certificates — even 911 emergency calls, which are now routinely available — without the consent of victims’ families.

The measure, written without the knowledge of the state Freedom of Information Commission, would stop the release of essential information that the public and government leaders need to know in considering how to prevent crimes and to understand how law enforcement responded.

The plan is perplexing, since Mr. Malloy (Governor) and other state officials had earlier complained about the authorities’ slow release of information on Newtown. Mr. Kane, the chief prosecutor, originally wanted the bill to restrict information on far more crimes. Under current practice in the state, according to The Courant, police do not release graphic photos of crime victims, and those that arise in criminal trials are not usually published by the media.

The proposal raises grave concerns about whether parents’ sensitivities could block the release of such things as private journals kept by the Newtown shooter, Adam Lanza. After the Columbine, Colo., school shootings in 1999, local officials fought against the release of the killers’ journals; those journals eventually provided valuable insight into the shooters’ thoughts.

Why would they do that? Sensitivity to the families didn’t stop the Obama administration from using them as tools to promote gun control, even passing them around the Senate in a bid to sway sympathy and votes. Many people have felt that the whole shooting and its handling was strange. This act will only make them more suspicious.

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