Judge poised to rule if parents will have a voice in court in Nashville school shooting case
Written by ABC Audio. All rights reserved. on May 24, 2023
(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — A Tennessee judge is poised to rule on Wednesday whether to allow the parents of children killed and those traumatized in a mass shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School to voice their opposition in court to the release of the shooter’s writings.
Davidson County Chancery Court Judge I’Ashea L. Myles said she will issue her decision by the end of Wednesday if she will allow the parents to speak on why they do not want the journals of the school shooter, Audrey Hale, who was killed by police in the March 27 rampage, made public.
“I think that is not something that we in Tennessee, and specifically in Nashville, have had to deal with,” Myles said in court Monday, referring to the massacre that left three children and three adults dead. “So, in a way, we are in unchartered territory. That moment is not lost on me.”
Myles held a status hearing on Monday in which she heard arguments from the attorneys for the parents and the Covenant School, who do not want Hale’s writings ever to be made public. She also heard from lawyers representing news organizations, a national police group and a firearms association that are suing the Nashville Metropolitan Government to get the killer’s journals released, hoping they shed light on a motive for the massacre.
Attorney Eric Osborne — who said he represents 100 families affected by the school shooting, including the parents of three 9-year-old children killed — told Myles that many of the parents want to address the court about their fears that releasing the shooter’s writings will prompt copycat attacks and add additional pain to the children who survived the attack.
Osborne argued it would violate the parent’s rights under the Tennessee Constitution if they were barred from intervening in the release of Hale’s journals.
“Once this document is released …. you can’t un-ring the bell,” Osborne said in court, adding that rejecting the parents’ request to speak in court would be “just a terrible violation of their rights.”
Attorneys for the Covenant School and the Covenant Presbyterian Church also argued they don’t want the journals and other evidence seized in the investigation released because they might contain the school’s safety plan and other documents pertaining to health and social security records of school and church employees.
Osborne said that while many parents are willing to be identified if allowed to intervene in the case, others want to participate under pseudonyms because they are afraid of reprisals if they testify.
Robb Harvey, an attorney who represents The Tennessean newspaper, countered that the parents should not be permitted to intervene, arguing they have no standing in the case because no criminal charges have been filed due to the suspect being shot to death by police.
“As horrible a thing that happened to the parents and the families of the people who were killed, they’re not victims of a crime,” Harvey told Myles. “So, the constitutional provision doesn’t apply to them.”
Harvey added, “I know that their emotions have been just jangled and rattled and disrupted, their family lives have been disrupted, but that doesn’t make them a criminal victim.”
The Nashville Metropolitan Government requested Monday’s hearing after being sued for the release of the documents by the news organizations, the Tennessee Firearms Association Inc. and Clata Renee Brewer, a private investigator for the National Police Association.
Brewer’s attorney, Doug Pierce, suggested in court that the families of those killed and traumatized in the shooting and Covenant School officials don’t want the writings and other evidence released because they are attempting to hide what’s in the documents from the public.
“You do get the distinct impression from what has been filed, I can’t say, but it’s very strong, they all know what is in that document,” Pierce alleged.
Osborne assured Myles that none of the families are privy to what is in the police investigative file.
Laura Fox, an attorney for the Nashville Metropolitan Government, said in court that some of the material seized in the investigation through search warrants and subpoenas, including Hale’s writings, have been turned over to Myles to review in private. Fox invited Myles to come to police headquarters to review the remainder of the evidence.
Fox said the police investigation is still active and more evidence is being collected.
Myles has scheduled a “show cause” hearing for June 8 before she rules on whether to release the documents in the case.
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