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Courts Unseal More Records Concerning Florida School Shooting

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Two judges rule in favor of the public's right to know key information in the Parkland mass shooting

More information about the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting suspect is to be made public, two Florida judges have ruled.

Agreeing with Thomas & LoCicero attorneys, one judge ordered the release of most of a statement that accused gunman Nikolas Cruz gave law enforcement, and another judge found that portions of a school board consultant’s report should be made public.

Judge Elizabeth Scherer of Florida’s Seventeenth Judicial Circuit ordered the release of most of Nikolas Cruz’s statement following the February 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  In her Opinion, Judge Scherer held that Florida’s public records exemption for confessions applies only to comments acknowledging guilt of all the elements of a criminal defense. Most of Cruz’s statement, Judge Scherer concluded, did not meet that definition.

Concerning the rest of Cruz’s statement, Judge Scherer explained, “The defendant has failed to demonstrate that preventing public disclosure of the non-confession portions of his statement is necessary to prevent a serious and imminent threat to the administration of justice.  The fact that the instant matter may be considered ‘high profile,’ does not in itself give the defendant the right to close the flow of information to the public.”  Judge Scherer further shared, “The defendant has failed to show that no alternatives are available, other than change of venue, which would protect his right to a fair trial.”

In a separate civil case, Judge Patti Henning of Florida’s Seventeenth Judicial Circuit authorized the release of portions of a Broward County School Board-commissioned report, over the objections of Cruz.  Additionally, certain redactions that the school board requested – citing federal and state laws regarding educational and medical records – went too far, Judge Henning found.

Thomas & LoCicero Partner Dana J. McElroy argued on in favor of disclosure in both of these matters. The firm’s clients seeking access are the Associated Press; Cable News Network, Inc.; Dow Jones & Company; the First Amendment Foundation; the Florida Press Association; Gannett Co., Inc.; GateHouse Media, LLC; Los Angeles Times Communications LLC; The McClatchy Company (the Bradenton Herald and the Miami Herald); Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc.; The New York Times Company; Orlando Sentinel Communications Company, LLC; Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; Sun-Sentinel Company, LLC; Sunbeam Television Corporation; and TEGNA.

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.