NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — After the deadly Covenant shooting back in March, debate quietly ensued over whether the autopsies of the minor victims should be available.
But soon, there may not be a question.
“There’s no reason why anybody should have the autopsy results of a murdered child,” House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) said. “These families have gone through hell.”
Lamberth introduced a bill ahead of the Aug. 21 special session that would make it so, “The reports of county medical examiners and autopsy reports of victims of violent crime who are minors are not public documents.”
They can only be released if “the parent or legal guardian consents to the release.”
“That pathway is very narrow. It assumes that the child is going to have two parents, two parents that agree. It’s going to assume they’re still alive,” Deborah Fisher said. “It’s going to assume that the legal guardian is, say, not the state. Maybe the child is in state custody somewhere, and the guardian is the state. Well, they will have to consent to release.”
The bill has drawn the ire of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government (TCOG), where Fisher is the executive director. She argued it needs significantly more time than the special session can provide.
“Is there a way to do this that won’t have unintended consequences?” Fisher said. “I don’t see how that can happen in, like, three days next week.”
Fisher said she understands the anguish, but the potential release can provide important details if someone is trying to cover up a crime.
“We’re not considering if a 17-year-old died after an encounter with police and how important that is for us to know,” she said. “Was the 17-year-old coming at police or running from police?”
But Lamberth pushed back, arguing the information just doesn’t belong in the public eye.
“That is some of the most precious, private information I can imagine,” he said. “A murdered child’s autopsy reports just shouldn’t be public.”