Connecticut Legislature: Grieving Demands Closed Society

You hear all the time about how the US is an “open society.” Right. An “open society” where a state legislature can secretly conspire to bring about laws that make public crimes and their evidence into state secretes no one can know. A place where lawmakers can get away with such tyranny may still be superior to Iran or some other hobgoblin of the day that permits Americans to feel great about themselves as they hurl toward self-denigration, but it isn’t the behavior of a truly open society.

I warned about this last month on another blog. Now it has happened:

“The bill applies to all homicide cases — not just to the Newtown investigation, as an earlier version of the proposal would have dictated — and it will block release of photos, videos, or digital video images ‘depicting the victim of a homicide, to the extent that such record could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy’ of the victim or surviving family members. Audiotapes of 911 emergency calls would continue to be released as public records under the state Freedom of Information Law according to the new language drafted Tuesday night. However, parts of audio recordings of other calls made by law enforcement personnel – portions in which the speaker describes ‘the condition of a victim of homicide’ – would not have to be disclosed by a law enforcement agency. As originally discussed, the bill would have blocked release of all audiotapes of 911 calls — which are routinely released in Connecticut and across the country, and are used by citizens and news organizations to evaluate police response to emergencies.”

Governor Daniel Malloy has not yet signed it because he is out of state. But there is no question that he will. He issued the following statement:

“My goal with this legislation was to provide some measure of protection for the families affected by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But the fact is, all families have a right to grieve in private. Those who lose loved ones to violence have a right to protect themselves against further anguish. This is a difficult issue, requiring all of us to balance deeply held beliefs and important public policy values. I commend the legislators on coming to an agreement that respects the privacy of grieving families.”

So there it is: victims of crime are too frail to allow freedom of information or a free press, First Amendment be damned. The state has to wisely keep evidence of public crimes, public safety issues, and public accusations away from the people because families must grieve in private.

Sure. I’m glad the press hasn’t been interviewing families on national television over the past months and  that the families never openly used their grief to lobby for curtailments and violations of the Second Amendment. Because, if that had happened a lot, it would turn Malloy’s words about “a right to grieve in private,” into a transparent lie.

This is a dangerous and un-American law. The Lanza family is grieving about the murder of Nancy Lanza and the insanity of her son Adam. So why shouldn’t the state be able to stop the release of all those weird pictures of Adam Lanza we keep being shown? If grieving allows censorship then it won’t stop with crime scene photos.

Meanwhile, the police report on the Sandy Hook shooting still remains a state secret even apart from any pictures. The newest delay claims we have to wait until the end of September. I’m not holding my breath.