Colorado House committee passes bill to close books on minors’ autopsy reports

Colorado Politics: Legislation to close the public record on minors’ autopsy reports passed the Colorado House Thursday afternoon after a debate about the pain of grieving families and holding accountable the system that is supposed to protect children and investigate their deaths.

Senate Bill 223 would automatically seal the public record of those younger than 18, except for families, government-sanctioned review boards, organ donation groups and civil or criminal lawyers with a direct involvement.

The House committee amended the bill that would allow outside investigators, including the media, to go to court to verify themselves as a “bonafide research project.” Currently coroners and other public agencies can go to court to seal records under certain cases. In closing remarks, legislators said the bill amended further in the last four days of the session, before voting to pass it 8-3.

Rep. Yeulin Willett said there was no urgency to pass this bill this session, and he thought it needed a lot more work.

“We’re doing this on the fly,” he told the committee. “We don’t do our best work in the last week of session. We have an important matter, but not urgent. We’ve been going along for decades with the court protecting us.”

The legislation passed the state Senate 32-3 on April 19. The bill still has to pass the House with enough time to return to the Senate, since it was amended. The Senate can either accept the House changes or go to a conference committee to work out a compromise both chambers can vote on before the session expires at midnight.

“Basically we’re talking about documents that contain the most painful words that will ever be written in a parent’s life.” said Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield, one of the bill’s House sponsors.

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