Friday, August 13, 2010

Bill to seal autopsies advances

The San Diego Union Tribune reports that the California Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved legislation (SB982) that would allow parents of murdered children to seal autopsy reports and photographs despite the objections of Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.

Yee (pictured) cast the lone dissenting vote, saying autopsy reports are “the only source of information for the public to know how someone died. ... This bill would make it nearly impossible for the press to provide oversight of a government agency.”

Terry Francke, co-founder of the open government advocacy group Californians Aware, said coroners already routinely refuse to release criminally related reports and “the court of appeal has held that they need not be” distributed. Also, all evidence presented to juries in homicide cases are public, under the constitution, he said.

“They are kept transparent because just as justice delayed is justice denied, justice unseen is justice uncertain,” Francke told the Union Tribune.

The bill, which now moves to the Assembly, stems from the slayings of San Diego County teenagers Chelsea King and Amber Dubois, whose autopsy reports have yet to be released.

San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is pushing Senate Bill 982 to seal autopsy reports. “The community was traumatized,” she told the Union Tribune in an earlier interview. “They don’t want to hear the details any more than they already have.”

Also read: LA Times editorial, "Bill to seal autopsy reports is misguided"

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