A First Amendment Expert Weighs In on the Release of a Shooter’s Manifesto
In an interview with the New York Post this week, a First Amendment expert emphasized the unprecedented nature of blocking the release of the manifesto of a transgender-identifying woman who shot six people at a Nashville Christian school.
“There’s nothing really to indicate that there would be this ability for victims to veto the release of otherwise public records and in, and in this case, crime records,”
Deborah Fisher, also the director of Middle Tennessee State University’s John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies, explained that victims typically do not have the power to prevent the release of public crime records. Even in cases where the shooter goes to trial, the writings of the shooter are often considered evidence.
However, a group of parents and school officials have sought to keep the manifesto of the 28-year-old woman, who killed three children and three adults at The Covenant School in March, from being made public. Fisher argued that laws protecting Tennessee victims do not grant them complete authority over open record laws.
Privacy Rights vs. Crime Records
Fisher clarified, “I don’t think that in that situation, the victims could veto those being submitted in a public trial, and I don’t think that they can veto them being released as crime evidence in a case that doesn’t go to trial because the person is dead.”
While victims do have privacy rights established in Tennessee law, Fisher emphasized that granting them veto power over crime records would be a new development.
Several news outlets, including The Daily Wire, have requested copies of the manifesto through open records laws but have been denied thus far. A lawsuit is currently underway to determine whether Metro Nashville Police will be allowed to release the manifesto.
The shooting victims included three students and three staff members. The shooter was shot and killed by Nashville police, who discovered various items at the shooter’s property.
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