Video exterior cameras captured during last month’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland must be made public, Florida Circuit Judge Jeffrey R. Levenson has concluded.
FORT LAUDERDALE – Video exterior cameras captured during last month’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland must be made public, Florida Circuit Judge Jeffrey R. Levenson has concluded. The ruling came in response to a petition from Thomas & LoCicero on behalf of 12 news organizations: CNN, ABC, Associated Press, Miami Herald, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Los Angeles Times, Gannett, the Florida First Amendment Foundation, the Florida Press Association, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Orlando Sentinel and Bradenton Herald.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office and Broward County school Board opposed release of the video.
After careful consideration of testimony and evidence presented during a two-hour hearing on March 9, Judge Levenson reviewed the video and cited three fundamental reasons for releasing it.
First, Judge Levenson found a lack of evidence that release of these specific recordings would impede an ongoing investigation.
Nikolas Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of murder in the mass shooting. Investigation into the mass crime continues, but Judge Levenson found the videos did not directly relate to the case against Cruz.
Second, the judge found that the recordings did not reveal significant information relating to the school’s security system. In making this decision, the Court balanced the public’s right to be informed regarding the perceived actions of the armed school resource officer against the potential harm to the current security system. The Court determined that any harm was outweighed by the strong public interest in disclosure.
Third, although the Sheriff’s Office cited a law keeping internal affairs investigations confidential, the judge found that law was not a sufficient reason to keep the video confidential, because the sheriff’s deputy stationed at the school – Scot Peterson – had resigned.
“Our legal team is pleased with the ruling,” shared Dana McElroy, partner with Thomas & LoCicero. “The public’s right to view the video and evaluate the actions of its government officials in the midst of this tragedy has been upheld.”
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.