A Delicate Balance

June 5, 2013

Hartford, CT – State Senator Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) introduced, with a number of her colleagues in the Senate and House, a bill to protect the privacy rights of the Newtown families and the family of all future homicide victims. Senator Boucher released the following statement today.

“This bill had to balance a family’s right to privacy and the public’s right to know. In a free society one must consider what is just and what is right.

“On December 14, 2012, twenty children and six staff from the Sandy Hook Elementary School were massacred in one of the worst school shootings in our nations’ history. The parents and family of the victims petitioned the legislature to prevent the photos of their loved ones from being exploited.

“Although there is valid concern about the freedom of the press – that is the underpinning of a free society and our democracy – compelling arguments were made by the families and other families of victims of violent crime. The General Assembly members were moved and leaders crafted a carefully worded document.

“This bipartisan bill strikes a delicate balance and passed overwhelming in both the House and the Senate. Here is what it does:

  • The law applies to all homicide cases
  • The law blocks the release of photos, videos, or digital video images “depicting the victim of a homicide, to the extent that such record could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy” of the victim or surviving family members.
  • Audiotapes of 911 emergency calls will continue to be released as public records under the state Freedom of Information Law
  • Secondary audio recordings made by law enforcement in which the speaker describes “the condition of a victim of homicide” will not be disclosed for one year. (May 2014)
  • Names of witnesses under 18 years of age are exempt from disclosure under the state’s Freedom of Information Law.
  • A 17-member task force will be formed by July 1, 2013 to consider and make recommendations regarding the balance between victim privacy under the Freedom of Information Act and the public’s right to know.
  • The task force will include: the director of the state FOI Commission; a person appointed by the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information; the chief state’s attorney; the chief public defender; the state victim advocate; the commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection; two appointees of the governor, one representing a “crime victim advocacy organization,” and one “a representative of municipal law enforcement”; a constitutional law professor recommended jointly by the law school deans at Yale, Quinnipiac University and UConn; four appointees of the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists, one each representing television, radio, print and “electronic media”; state Senate President Pro Tempore or a lawmaker he designates; House Speaker or a member of the Black and Puerto Rican caucus whom he designates; Senate Minority Leader or a lawmaker he designates; and House Minority Leader or a lawmaker he designates.
  • Two “chairpersons” from among the members of the task force, which will be required to submit a report on its findings to the General Assembly by January 1, 2014.”