NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Tennessee Court of Appeals judge heard arguments regarding the release of the Covenant School shooter’s writings on Monday — more than six months after the deadly shooting occurred.
On March 27, six people, including three children, were shot and killed by 28-year-old Audrey Hale at The Covenant School in Green Hills. The victims were identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, all 9 years old; as well as Cynthia Peak, 61; Dr. Katherine Koonce, 60; and Mike Hill, 61.
After searching Hale’s home and car, police discovered multiple journals that allegedly documented the plans to commit mass murder months before the shooting happened.
Since then, there’s been a legal battle on whether the writings should be released to the public, with both sides of the aisle posing strong arguments. On Monday, Oct. 16, the Court of Appeals heard why both Covenant families and Metro Government believe they have the right to weigh in on whether the so-called manifesto is released.
Several family members of Covenant School shooting victims filed petitions earlier this year asking for the writings to be kept private. According to documents, families of the victims believe the release of the shooter’s writings could bring “psychological consequences for the survivors and their families.”
On Monday, the court also heard from a lawyer who represent the Covenant Presbyterian Church, who argued that because the church owns the Covenant School and operates under the same premises as the school, the release of the writings would also reveal security and schematic information shared by both the church and school.
“So the church and school operate at the same premises. The Covenant School operates at the Covenant Presbyterian Church, thus all security information, schematic information involved in this case is actually owned by the Covenant Presbyterian Church, and as the institution that hosts that school, we’re traveling under the school safety exception…which provides that school schematic information, safety security information, shall not be subject to public disclosure,” said Rocky W. King, III, who represents the Covenant Presbyterian Church.
Attorney Lora Fox, attorney for Metropolitan Government argued that the government should have a right to weigh in on the release of these documents, and that sometimes government should protect the personal information of victims.
“Sometimes the government has information that is private, it doesn’t show how the government works and that’s what there are exceptions for that says when the government gets private information, that’s not something that’s a public record. You have to protect that information,” Fox said.
Brent Leatherwood is the father of three Covenant students. After court Monday, he told News 2 he was encouraged to see judges ask several questions of the petitioning attorney, challenging parts of his reasoning.
“My impression was that the judges know what’s right, which is allowing parents and families intervene in this case,” Leatherwood said. “Opposing counsel said that our intervention would derail and complicate this. Well, I’m sorry if the worst school shooting in state history and the survivors of that and the families that are dealing with deaths of loved ones who would like to have a say in the outcome of this complicates this matter for opposing counsel. It’s just stupefying.”
While Covenant families are against the writings being made public, there are lawsuits that argue the documents are public record and should be released.
There is no timeline on when the court will decide whether or not parents and Metro government will get to weigh in on the release of these documents. A separate judge will decide if, and what parts of the documents will be released.
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This is a developing story. WKRN News 2 will continue to update this article as new information becomes available.