In Florida, following the 2001 death of Dale Earnhardt in a race-car crash, lawmakers exempted autopsy photos from the public-records law unless released by a family member or judge, and the Florida Supreme Court upheld the law. The Orlando Sentinel had wanted access to the photos to independently verify the reported cause of death, because there was a question about whether the use of a head-and-neck restraint device could have saved his life, The Florida Times-Union reported.
“We’ve always had people who would use information to be spiteful or hurtful, [but] I don’t think closing off government records is the best way to fight against that baser human tendency,” says Sonny Albarado, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, which sent a letter in conjunction with its Connecticut chapter to Governor Malloy, objecting to the new legislation and the fact that it was crafted without public hearings.
Connecticut journalism associations also sent a joint letter to Malloy, stating in part: “While many tragic events have made us question whether the disclosure of information is always in the best interest of a society, history has demonstrated repeatedly that governments must favor disclosure. Only an informed society can make informed judgments on issues of great moment.”