Newtown Families in Last-Minute Push to Prevent the Release of Crime-Scene Photos

By
Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A debate in Connecticut over whether to release crime scene photos and audio recordings of the Newtown massacre has come down to the wire, with the victims' families pressing lawmakers to seal the records before midnight Wednesday, when the legislative session ends. The state legislature won't reconvene until February, and the state's investigative report should be out by then. The families fear that the photos of their loved ones will become fodder for conspiracy theorists and gun control advocates, particularly after Michael Moore penned a Huffington Post column in March that argued releasing photos of the young victims would end the gun debate for good.

Connecticut lawmakers have been secretly discussing a proposal to give the families veto power over the release of images or descriptions of the victims' injuries since at least April. When the Hartford Courant uncovered the plans last month, freedom of information advocates criticized the move and some questioned why the Newtown victims should have more protections than those involved in other homicides. The paper reports that late on Tuesday, lawmakers reached a tentative deal on the issue. The bill, which has yet to be voted on, would prohibit the release of photos, videos, and explicit audio descriptions of homicide victims' injuries in all cases, not just the Newtown massacre.

A petition to keep the images private, which was started by Newtown parents and signed by more than 103,000 people, says that "Michael Moore and the hoaxers want to publish this gruesome information." That's a reference to Moore's post "America, You Must Not Look Away (How to Finish Off the NRA)," in which Moore describes how photos of horrific crimes have swayed public opinion, from the Emmett Till case to the My Lai massacre. He wrote:

But I have a prediction. I believe someone in Newtown, Connecticut – a grieving parent, an upset law enforcement officer, a citizen who has seen enough of this carnage in our country – somebody, someday soon, is going to leak the crime scene photos of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. And when the American people see what bullets from an assault rifle fired at close range do to a little child's body, that's the day the jig will be up for the NRA. It will be the day the debate on gun control will come to an end. There will be nothing left to argue over. It will just be over. And every sane American will demand action.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter on Monday, Moore said he's against releasing the photos without the parent's permission, and was merely considering what will happen if the images are made public. "When you read the whole thing, [you see that] I’m not calling for the release of these photos, for Christ’s sake," Moore explained. "I’m saying when and if a parent decides to do this, or if sadly they’re leaked, I’m encouraging people not to turn away. It’s our responsibility to these children to know what our laws did to them."