Jun 22, 2022 - News

Judge to rule on use of Marsy's Law to withhold deputies' IDs in a fatal shooting

Illustration of many magnifying glasses examining a police badge

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune is currently prohibited from naming the Sarasota County sheriff's deputies involved in the fatal shooting of an elderly man during an attempt to evict him from his condo in April.

  • And a judge said Tuesday that he'll rule within a week on whether an emergency injunction preventing the newspaper from printing the deputies' names should stay in place.

What's happening: The state attorney's office previously provided the last names of the deputies involved in the shooting to the Herald-Tribune in response to a routine public records request.

Yes, but: When the paper asked for more information, the sheriff’s office quickly sought an emergency injunction to keep the names secret, citing Florida's Marsy's Law.

What they're saying: The paper's editorial board and activist groups like Women's Voices of Southwest Florida say the law, which was meant to protect the privacy of crime victims, is being used by police to keep secret the names of officers involved in shootings.

  • "If there is nothing to hide, why go to these lengths to hide the identity of a public servant who took the life of an individual during an eviction process?" Women's Voices of Southwest Florida wrote in an emailed statement. "The community has a right to this information."

The other side: Attorneys for the sheriff's office and the deputies said at the hearing Tuesday that Marsy's Law applies to protecting law enforcement involved in such incidents, who are at risk of threats or harassment.

  • Patrick Duggan, the Sheriff's Office's attorney, said that deputies worrying about whether their personal information may be released could cause them to hesitate in situations that could potentially put the public at risk.

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