Newspapers routinely have access to gruesome crime scene photographs, but they are ”virtually never published,” a retired newspaper editor testified Wednesday.
G. Claude Albert, a longtime editor at The Hartford Courant who testified as the legislative chair of the Connecticut Council of Freedom of Information, said that no gruesome photos were published following the multiple homicides at the Connecticut Lottery Corp. in Newington and at a beer distributor in Manchester.
In addition, newspapers did not publish gruesome shots from the Boston Marathon bombings, even though professional photographers were at the scene within seconds because they had been waiting near the finish line at the famed race.
“It does demonstrate that there is restraint” by newspapers, Albert told a special legislative task force that is trying to strike a balance between the public’s right to know and victim’s privacy.
The task force was created following the massacre in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown, where 20 children and six female educators were killed by shooter Adam Lanza on December 14, 2012. Many of the parents of the children were concerned about crime-scene photographs and 911 tapes being released in the Newtown case. Local officials in Newtown have also been concerned about the release of death certificates, which have less information than autopsy reports.
“Connecticut death certificates are public records,” Albert said. “The public is entitled to look at them. They’re entitled to copy them. Any public official who withholds them is violating the Freedom of Information Act.”
The difference between Newtown and the Boston Marathon was that the police controlled the entire crime scene inside the school in Newtown and no photographers were allowed inside. At the marathon, photographers were already at the scene and there were no restrictions on which pictures could be taken or where the photographers could go.
Albert chatted back and forth with Chief State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane, who acknowledged that the 17-member panel is seeking to reach a balance with victim privacy.
“This is a troubling issue, and that’s why we need help – and you have highlighted it,” Kane said. “I hope you can help us. Your observations have been good, and we can use some more.” Continue reading