Violent Tsarnaev Photos Are Public Property While Sandy Hook Crime Scene Photos Are Secret?

Photographs of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are causing a lot of controversy—especially because one state police officer took action:

“A Massachusetts state policeman was furious over Rolling Stone’s contentious new cover, which he saw as “glamorizing the face of terror”—so the “tactical photographer” yesterday released some Dzhokhar Tsarnaev photos of his own. The images, handed to Boston Magazine, offer an up-close look at Tsarnaev’s capture: In one, he stands covered in blood, apparently pulling up his shirt to show he has no weapon, CNN reports. Some show a sharpshooter’s red dot on his head, NPR notes. ‘Glamorizing the face of terror is not just insulting to the family members of those killed in the line of duty, it also could be an incentive to those who may be unstable to do something to get their face on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine,’ Sgt. Sean Murphy tells Boston Magazine.”

This unauthorized release of photographs got Murphy suspended, despite his noble motives. This doesn’t surprise me. What does surprise me is that there has been a spontaneous movement to support Murphy against any penalties from his superiors.

“A Massachusetts police officer’s leak of gruesome Dzhokhar Tsarnaev photos got him suspended, with hearings—possibly this week—set to determine his future. Now, supporters are gathering on Facebook to urge authorities to let Sean Murphy keep his job, the Los Angeles Times reports. ‘He did what I think most of us would have liked to do or would have done had we had the same resources,’ argues the Save Sgt. Sean Murphy page, which has racked up more than 38,000 likes.”

But wait! In the Tsarnaev case, there is an actual trial going on. It is possible that the legal system might have a true public interest in withholding the photos—like to make sure they can get a jury that is uncontaminated with bias. I’m not saying I agree with that point of view, but at least it is arguable.

But when the Connecticut legislator secretly constructed a secret bill to keep the Sandy Hook crime scene evidence secret, it passed without any national controversy. It is almost difficult to find much opposition on the web. Even the provisions in the law that would allow the state to reconsider the ban on information is being neglected.

“Luckily, the law also includes a statute requiring the creation of 17-member task force to watch its applications and make recommendations assessing the ‘balance between victim privacy under the Freedom of Information Act and the public’s right to know.’ As executive director of the state FOI coalition, Murphy was automatically appointed to the task force, and other members were supposed to be selected by July 1. But the Newtown city administration missed a deadline to appoint selections to the force, and Murphy said details about the whole process are still murky. The group is supposed to convene by Aug.1 and meet at least once a month thereafter until December so it can make recommendations to the General Assembly on Jan. 1. Until it happens, Murphy has been lying low and attempting to advise the FOIC about how to apply the new law.”

So what gives? Why a groundswell of report for one unauthorized leak, while we get apathy about the government making information secret, even when they fail for follow their own law?