McGuire Megna Attorneys, An Association of Professionals

To Reveal or Not to Reveal-That is the Question with Sebring Mass Shooting and Marsy’s Law

To Reveal or Not to Reveal-That is the Question with Sebring Mass Shooting and Marsy’s Law

Last November, Florida voters voted to expand the rights of crime victims.  Provisions of the law include requirements crime victims be informed of their rights and the services available to them, an entitlement to updates on criminal proceedings, a right to know about meetings between the accused and state attorneys before plea deals agreed to, and the option to attend and speak during court proceedings.

Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund referred to the new law in declining to name the names of the shooting massacre at a SunTrust building in Sebring.  Hoglund has faced criticism in his decision from those who say that the public has a right to know the names of the victims.

Michael Barfield, board president for the ACLU of Florida,said he considers the move false comfort for families. That’s because Florida law requires discovery documents in court cases to be made public once shared with defense attorneys.

“The right to privacy in Florida’s constitution contains a provision specifically that says it is not trumped by the right of public access,” Barfield said.

That means in as soon as a few weeks, the names of the shooting victims will likely come out through documents detailing Xaver’s alleged crimes.

“It’s a hollow premise,” Barfield said. “At some point, their identities have to be revealed. Depositions will have to be taken. People will have to appear in court.”

Others argue that releasing the names serves no public purpose whatsoever and grieving families have a right to privacy.

Paul Cassell, a University of Utah professor, told The Associated Press that exposing the families to unwanted scrutiny served no public interest.

“Is it really necessary for the public to have the names of all five victims to understand what’s happening down there and what’s going on?” Cassell said.

“I don’t think there’s a public interest in the specific names of the victims in the immediate aftermath, so I think the law is working as it’s intended and having a beneficial effect for families that are grieving right now.”

This tragic case demonstrates that Marsy’s law was a good idea but poorly constructed. There are so many legal loopholes that courts will spend years in hearings and proceedings trying to determine what is specifically called for in the legislation.

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