Sandy Hook shooter's journals to be released, per Conn. SC ruling

By Karen Kidd | Nov 14, 2018

Connecticut Supreme Court  

HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) – Connecticut will not be able to appeal the state's Supreme Court's recent unanimous decision that journals and other documents belonging to Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza should be released to the public.

"Because the state Supreme Court is the court of last resort with respect to the issues in this case - the proper construction and application of Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act - no appeal is anticipated," Connecticut Attorney General Spokeswoman Jacyln Severance said in a widely published statement.

The Connecticut Supreme Court's 21-page opinion released Oct. 23 in which the court reversed a lower court's decision that barred release of the documents was generally seen as a victory for the Hartford Courant. The newspaper has for five years been seeking release of the documents seized by state police from the Lanza's Newtown residence where he killed his mother before opening fire at the school, killing 26 and then himself on Dec. 14, 2012.

Justice Raheem L. Mullins wrote the high court's opinion in which Chief Justice Richard A. Robinson and justices Richard N. Palmer, Andrew J. McDonald and Maria Araujo Kahn, concurred.

The newspaper sought the documents after they had been referred to in a report prepared by Connecticut State Police about the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, according to background portions of the Supreme Court's opinion. When state police failed to timely respond to the newspaper's request, the Hartford Courant filed a complaint with the Freedom of Information Commission, which later concluded the documents should be released.

The state appealed the commission's decision and New Britain District Superior Court Judge Carl J. Schuman ruled in April 2016 that the documents should be sealed, reasoning the documents had been private property before they were seized by police.

In its opinion last month, the state Supreme Court disagreed, saying the documents were governed by state search and seizure laws and are not exempt from disclosure.

"If we were to accept the [police] department's claim that items, more specifically documents, seized by the police in the investigation of a crime do not constitute a public record, this provision exempting some seized items from the act would be meaningless," the high court said in its opinion. "As we have explained, we must interpret statutes so as not to render any term meaningless."

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