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Judge to decide this week who can have a say in which Covenant documents to release

From NewsChannel 5 in Nashville: A judge will decide this week who has a say in which documents from the Covenant School shooter can be withheld from the public.


Five different groups have asked the court to release all the documents Metro Police obtained from the shooter. All five — the Tennessee Firearms Association, National Police Association, the Tennessee Star, The Tennessean newspaper, and Sen. Todd Gardenhire — argued in chancery court on Monday to release all the documents. In response, The Covenant School, the Covenant Church, and the parents at the school asked the judge not to release everything right away.


Judge I’Ashea Myles said she would need to take all the considerations into play along with the scope of documents provided to the court before making her decision. She said she would announce her decision no later than Wednesday.


Before the court, several attorneys argued why the documents should be released to the public. First Amendment attorneys and open government groups have already told NewsChannel 5 they consider the records public. They claim since Metro is not actively pursuing charges against anyone else in the case, the records should be released.


The Tennessean and Sen. Gardenhire’s attorney took it a step further.


“Are they victims? The parents aren’t victims,” attorney Robb Harvey said. “I say it with respect, but they aren’t victims of a crime. The parents who had other children in the school aren’t victims of a crime. No one is asking for dead body photos. We are dealing with a chilling of First Amendment rights. We have the right to gather news. Sen. Gardenhire has the right to prepare to do his Constitutional job.”


At the time of the search warrant at the shooter’s house, authorities cataloged 47 items including guns, a suicide note, journals, and more.


But those who represented the church, the school, and the parents insist they have a right to have their voices heard. They argue some of the information in the writings should be kept confidential. They do not want any specifics about the building and its security released as well as employee information. The parents argue none of the writings should be released. They worry it could lead to another school shooting.


“While we all agree that open records and transparency are important, we can agree that victims’ rights are important,” attorney Eric Osborne said. “There is no constitutional right to public records. There are exceptions beyond the explicit ones. There is no First Amendment right to public records.”


Another hearing in the case is scheduled for June 8.