Editorial: Don’t hide child autopsy reports from the public

The Denver Post: The state House of Representatives should reject an unwise and overly broad bill restricting the release of autopsy reports on minors. The bill, unfortunately, already passed the Senate.

The county coroners pushing the legislation say it will protect the privacy of families, but there are already ways to block the release of these reports when necessary. Coroners, for instance, can petition state courts to exempt the release of an autopsy if they can show it wouldn’t be in the public interest. The rules balance privacy against the people’s right to know.

The broad, blanket exemption to public records law contained in Senate Bill 223 would upend that balance.

“To create a new categorical exemption for all autopsy reports of minors is not only unnecessary and overboard, it is a disservice to the public interest,” Steven Zansberg, a lawyer who has represented The Denver Post and other media outlets in open-records litigation, said in an email to the newspaper.

The fact is that the press has frequently used autopsy reports to hold public officials accountable — including coroners themselves. The Denver Post, for instance, worked with KUSA 9News in a 2012 joint investigation that uncovered serious problems with Colorado’s child protective system.

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