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Newtown photos barred: Did lawmakers balance privacy, public's right to know? (+video)

The Connecticut legislature passed a bill Wednesday restricting the release of crime-scene photos of the Newtown victims. The law brought relief to family members, but it's also prompted concerns among civil liberties groups.

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One online comment supporting the petition, by organizer Nicole Hockley, reads:  “Dylan is my son. I want to preserve his memory as a beautiful boy – not as a gun-riddled corpse. I also do not want his brother Jake to see these photos or listen to the execution of his brother, friends and teachers on 911 tapes.”

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While sympathetic to such pleas from family members, Mr. Albarado says one also has to think about “the harm to society by being euphemistic or hiding from the public in general the facts of the situation.”

The National Center for Victims of Crime supports a balance between information and privacy, noting that victims and their families are served well when the media and others can be watchdogs to ensure high-quality investigations. “The Connecticut legislature hit a very difficult balance” in this case, says executive director Mai Fernandez.

Because images of a victim right after he or she has died can retraumatize family members, it’s reasonable to have restrictions, but a task force will reexamine how the law is being implemented so that “if it denies access to lots of [Freedom of Information] requests, they can amend it,” Ms. Fernandez says.

The Newtown tragedy has become highly politicized, particularly regarding the debate over gun laws, which worked its way into discussions of this law because the Change.org petition claimed that “Michael Moore and the hoaxers want to publish this gruesome information.”

Mr. Moore, who made a documentary about gun violence and the Columbine shootings, vigorously denied that statement in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter earlier this week. He said he had no desire to use such images.

A piece he wrote for The Huffington Post earlier this year was misinterpreted, he said, but in it he had simply raised the idea that images from the Newtown crime scene are likely to make their way onto the Internet at some point. If such images surface, he noted in that article, Americans should look at them to confront the nature of what guns can do to the human body.

He also cited examples of other disturbing images that prompted citizen movements to change society – such as photos of the body of Emmett Till, an African-American boy who was mutilated and murdered in 1955, and images of civilian massacres during the Vietnam War.

Associated Press material was used in this report.

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