Jul 11, 2018

“News delayed is news denied,” argues Partner Dana J. McElroy

The conflict continues over the public’s right to know in an appellate hearing in Broward County regarding the release of exterior camera footage in the Parkland mass shooting.

Attorneys for the Broward County School Board and Broward State Attorney’s Office argued in state court that the public should not see security camera footage that may shed light on what law enforcement officers did during the deadly Parkland school shooting on February 14, 2018, according to yesterday’s Miami Herald report.

On the opposing side, Thomas & LoCicero partner Dana J. McElroy argued in favor of the release of security camera footage as she represented 12 news organizations:  ABC, Inc., The Associated Press, The Bradenton Herald, Cable News Network, Inc. (CNN), The First Amendment Foundation, Florida Press Association, Gannett Company, Inc., Los Angeles Times Communications LLC, Miami Herald Media Company, The New York Times Company, Orlando Sentinel Communications Company, LLC and Sun-Sentinel Company, LLC.   

The footage requested by the news media outlets comes from a small number of exterior cameras at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  Ms. McElroy argued that this footage may show what actions deputies took during and shortly after a six-minute shooting spree that left students and staff bleeding to death from grievous wounds.  She reiterated that the media did not request interior footage showing former student Mr. Nikolas Cruz who has confessed to the attack that killed 17 people. 

An assistant state attorney Joel Silvershein said that the footage was gathered as potential evidence in the case against Mr. Cruz and therefore should not be released.  Mr. Cruz was arrested shortly after the attack and is awaiting trial. 

But Ms. McElroy argued, “The public’s right to know how law enforcement responded – and to potentially prevent future tragedies – outweighs those concerns.”  She also added that the Broward School Superintendent Robert Runcie said earlier this spring that the school district planned to “upgrade” cameras and surveillance by June 2018, meaning a new system should be in place that would render potential vulnerabilities in the old system irrelevant.  Ms. McElroy said the release of the footage should not, as one judge suggested, wait until Mr. Cruz is tried, which could take years.

“News delayed is news denied,” Ms. McElroy told the court.

With offices in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, Thomas & LoCicero is a Florida law firm that is widely known, respected and committed to free speech and a free press.  The firm represents the industry’s leading electronic and traditional publishers, as well as individual journalists, bloggers and influencers of social media on issues ranging from news gathering to invasion of privacy, from defamation to pre-publication review.  At the heart of the firm’s mission is to champion free speech and defend journalism every day.

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