Home » Victim Impact Statement » In the Shadow of Sandy Hook What Should be the Yardstick for Victim’s Privacy?

In the Shadow of Sandy Hook What Should be the Yardstick for Victim’s Privacy?

 

mass media, privacy, victim privacy

Even 15 months after the most horrendous mass killing of children and adults in recent history, the wounds are still fresh…

A year anniversary passed in December….

A Governor appointed Advisory Council is still grappling with the “why of it” in hopes of gaining insight into the prevention of another mass tragedy of its kind.

Guns, mental health, school oversight, and parental responsibility aside, a town grieves daily. But there are signs of renewed hope with a new architectural design for a new school just completed and a Selectwoman who continues to lead with grace and thoughtfulness.  Using a delicate balance of completing town business and always keeping those who died in our hearts and minds., Pat Llodra accomplishes her mission to ensure the safety and best interests of her residents.

 

A MATTER OF PRIVACY

Release of the 911 tapes: “Release of the audio recordings will also allow the public to consider and weigh what improvements, if any, should be made to law enforcement’s response to such incidents,” Superior Court Judge Eliot Prescott said.

Pat Llodra, First Selectwoman of Newtown compared the steady leak of information about the investigation of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School to “Chinese water torture she now believes recordings of 911 calls from the school should be made public.

“Every day, there is something in the media that drags us back to that terrible day,” Llodra said. “I think everything that can be released should be released.” She asked that media “treat us kindly” in December 2013, just three months ago.

Although each and every victim has their own opinion regarding what is appropriate and what they can personally tolerate, in the final analysis, dispatchers were calm and handled the situation as trained.  However, this event has opened up a Pandora’s box in that victim’s privacy issues have never been so exposed. Does anyone really want or need to see photographs of dead children and carnage from perpetrator Adam Lanza?

Does the “principles of Free speech” and journalism trump human decency?  Should we rein in the Freedom of Information Act in certain circumstances?

Raised Bill 388 of the Connecticut General Assembly–                                                                       

AN ACT IMPLEMENTING THE RECOMMENDATION OF THE TASK FORCE ON VICTIM PRIVACY AND THE PUBLIC’S RIGHT TO KNOW.

Link to Text of the Bill: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2014/TOB/S/2014SB-00381-R00-SB.htm

This bill seemingly covers all bases in scope with 29 separate provisions stating: “Nothing in the Freedom of Information Act shall be construed to require disclosure of…” in situations in which various documents, files or images, it has been determined that the withholding of such in the public’s interest clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure and such disclosures would constitute an invasion of personal privacy.

Specific provisions added  as they relate to crime victims include 27 through 29:

(27) Any record created by a law enforcement agency or other federal, state, or municipal governmental agency consisting of a photograph, film, video or digital or other visual image depicting the body or any portion of the body of a victim of a homicide, to the extent that the disclosure of such record could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, [of the victim or the victim’s surviving family members.] provided nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to prohibit the inspection of such a record in accordance with section 2 of this act;

(28) Any record created by a law enforcement agency or other federal, state or municipal governmental agency consisting of an audio recording of an emergency 9-1-1 call or other call for assistance that is made by a member of the public when such call (A) relates to a homicide, and (B) captures, conveys or relates to the impaired physical condition of the caller or another person, to the extent that the disclosure of such record could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, provided nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to prohibit listening to such record in accordance with section 2 of this act;

(29) Any record created by a law enforcement agency or other federal, state or municipal governmental agency consisting of an audio recording that is an operative communication among law enforcement personnel when such communication (A) relates to a homicide, and (B) captures, conveys or relates the impaired physical condition of the caller or another person, to the extent that the disclosure of such record could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, provided nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prohibit listening to such record in accordance with section 2 of this act.

(Bracketed text is recommended for deletion while the remainder of 27-29 was underlined in the Bill, meaning that it is new information to be added). As can be noted, this language covers records, photos, videos created by law enforcement,, depicting a body or a portion thereof, audio recordings that convey information concerning a homicide or the impaired physical conditions of victims, and requests for copies of images and audio recordings, including copying of images in which victim families have submitted a written objection  to the image.

The other provisions include “everything but the kitchen sink” such as medical files, trade secrets, financial and commercial, content of real estate appraisals , records between those with privileged relationships, school enrollment records, investigative records, adoptive records, town petitions, educational and mental health records, security manuals, emergency plans, correctional institution material, records from government owned or leased institutions, security system information, Department of Transportation records, parks and recreation  minor attendees, etc.

STATUS:

This Bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee as of 3-4-2014 after which a Public Hearing  of the Government Administration and Elections Committee was held  on 3-10-2014, lasting  5½  hours (inclusive of all bills within that committee.)                                                                                           Link: http://www.ctn.state.ct.us/ctnplayer.asp?odID=10015

The number of entities testifying on behalf and against this bill is listed as follows:

To date, the GAE Committee voted 8 to 6 in favor of the bill. It may pass on to other committees prior to the end of the session on May 7th (a short legislative session this year.)

 

Judiciary Committee
03/10/2014 American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut – David McGuire 03/10/2014 CCFOI and Privacy and FOI Task Force – James H. Smith
03/10/2014 Connecticut Bar Association – Daniel J. Klau 03/10/2014 Connecticut Broadcasters Association – Michael P. Ryan
03/10/2014 Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information – Claude Albert 03/10/2014 Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association – John T. Walkley
03/10/2014 Connecticut Daily Newspapers Association – Chris VanDeHoef 03/10/2014 Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission – Colleen M. Murphy
03/10/2014 Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists – Jodie Mozdzer Gil 03/10/2014 CT Daily Newspapers Assoc. – Chris VanDeHoef
03/10/2014 CT Division of Criminal Justice 03/10/2014 CT Office of Chief Public Defender – Susan O. Storey
03/10/2014 CT Office of the Victim Advocate – Garvin G. Ambrose 03/10/2014 Don DeCesare
03/10/2014 Freedom of Information Commission 03/10/2014 Mitchell W. Pearlman
03/10/2014 Rep. Angel Arce 03/10/2014 Rep. Leonard A. Fasano
03/10/2014 Senator Donald E. Williams, Jr. 03/10/2014 South Windsor Police Department – Matthew D. Reed
03/10/2014 The 26 Families of the Victims of the Sandy Hook School Shooting 03/10/2014 The 26 Families of the Victims of the Sandy Hook Shooting – Morgan Rueckert
03/10/2014 The Freedom of Information Commission    

 

IN MY OPINION:

The Constitutional rights of freedom of speech and the public’s right to know need to be forever balanced. When respect and human dignity are “thrown out the window” in favor of media ratings than we have sunk to a new low in society. I am not sure when we veered off course in favor of sensationalism and gore.  However, I do know that the pendulum needs to swing back. Crime victims need to take control and draw clear boundaries for themselves. This is an area with which we should not have to be concerned.  However, we are placed in this position by the sheer number of atrocities occurring. Let’s stop the madness and   use some common sense and human decency.  Government should not have to legislate human decency! If this legislation is passed by the end of the session, may it serve as a model for other states as well as a cautionary tale regarding journalists’ lack of moral compass.

With that said, an answer to reliving some of the pain of a surviving family’s experience following homicide, is my customized Victim Impact Statement Assistance.  Using my skills and experience, I can paint the picture with and for you, such that the court or Board of Pardons and Parole can truly know your family member.  It will be a testament of the heart, relieving you of the burden at a most vulnerable time.   If I can help you or your family, please contact me.

In the Shadow of Sandy Hook What Should be the Yardstick for Victim’s Privacy?

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