A Tennessee judge’s historic order providing parents the legal right to object to police evidence in a Nashville school mass sh00ting case might inhibit law enforcement’s future disclosure of the violent crime.
On Wednesday, Davidson County Chancery Court Judge I’Ashea L. Myles ruled that parents of Covenant School students ki!!ed or traumatized by the March 27 massacre have legal standing to intervene in lawsuits seeking the release of evidence, including the sh00ter’s writings.
“There’s no roadmap on this,” Deborah Fisher, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, a group that promotes government transparency, told ABC News.
The Covenant School parents filed a motion to be heard in a now-consolidated lawsuit against the Nashville Metropolitan Government by media companies, the Tennessee Firearms Association Inc., and a private investigator for the National Police Association to compel the police department to release evidence collected in an ongoing investigation of the school sh00ting that ki!!ed three 9-year-old students and three adults, including the school’s head.
At a court hearing before Myles this week, the parents’ counsel said they don’t want any police evidence, including the journals of 28-year-old Audrey Hale, the alleged sh00ter mu*dered by police.
Police have not revealed the att@ck’s purpose.
During Monday’s hearing, attorney Eric Osborne claimed he represented 100 families touched by the school massacre and that the parents believe the evidence could incite copycat acts and cause more suffering to the survivors.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to enter this case on behalf of our children and loved ones,” Parent of a Covenant School student Brent Leatherwood, who was present at Monday’s hearing, told the New York Times.
“Our intention is to safeguard our families and do all we can to prevent this horror from spreading to any other community.”
The parents cited the Tennessee Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights in their motion, which states that victims “have the right to be free from harassment, intimidation, and abuse throughout the criminal justice system.”
Judge’s unprecedented ruling granting parents legal right to object to release of police evidence in Nashville school mass shooting case could produce chilling effect on what law enforcement officials make public about violent crime in future, experts say. https://t.co/cJAcfuTNtS
— ABC News (@ABC) May 26, 2023
“Let me be clear, what would create a slippery slope is if she (Myles) decides that victims have a right to prevent access to police records,” Fisher stated.
“I think we’re about to hear, according to what the lawyers said, testimony from witnesses that say why the writings of mass shooters should not be released.”
Attorneys on both sides will argue at Myles’ June 8 “show cause” hearing.
Osborne said many Covenant School parents want to tell the court why they don’t want the information disclosed. He also wanted expert witnesses to explain how such a publication could expose victims to “harassment, intimidation, and abuse.”
Myles allowed the Covenant Presbyterian Church and its school to intervene in the litigation along with the parents.
On Monday, the church and school’s lawyers claimed that the investigation’s evidence contains the school’s safety plan and personnel health and social security data.
Myles stated that “the court was stirred” by the claim that releasing sensitive private records would have “harmful and irreversible consequences.”
“We’re interested because we’re used to police being able to release things about crimes,” Fisher stated. “We don’t know what will happen if victims could, basically, prevent the release of police information, any police information. If that were the case, the police’s hands will be tied on releasing information without the consent of the victim.”
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Fisher observed that Metropolitan Nashville Police Department released body camera footage of police charging into the school and ki!!ing the sh00ter two days after the deαdly massacre. Police revealed security footage of Hale sh00ting victims in the hallways with an AR-15-style rifle.
“Even though it’s graphic and scary to see that, police released it and it made them look like heroes and they were. They really went into that situation, and you could see what police had to do,” Fisher again stated.
“That video of the shooter going through the school, I don’t know what the parents think about that being released.”
According to ABC News, it’s “incredibly unusual” that the Covenant School sh00ter’s writings haven’t been revealed.
“To me, the important thing is to learn the motivation why the person picked the particular place they did to attack,” Lott says.
Two days after more than 60 members of the Tennessee House Republican Caucus wrote to Metropolitan Nashville Police Department Chief John Drake asking him to release Hale’s writings, the Covenant parents filed a motion to have a say in the release of police evidence.
After the sh00ting, the lawmakers wrote that Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee called for a special session to discuss public safety legislation.
“In order for this special session to be successful, it is paramount we understand the behavior and motives of the Covenant School perpetrator,” the letter stated.
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