FRANKFORT, Ky. — A Kentucky House committee approves a bill to limit the publication of certain crime photos.
House Bill 104 exempts gruesome photos from open records laws.
A revised version of the bill specifies the photos would involve death or sexual assault.
Bill sponsor state Rep. Chris Freeland, R-Benton, said it’s a response to the Marshall County High School shooting.
“There are photographs and videos associated with this shooting case that have absolutely no business being in the public domain,” Marshall County attorney Jason Darnall said. “The Holt and Cope families have been victimized by an unimaginable tragedy. There’s no justifiable reason to subject them to more suffering by the prospect of these photographs and videos being disseminated around the world to anyone with internet access.”
Brian Cope, the father of one of the victims, said he was mortified to see video of a recent school shooting in Texas on the evening news.
“We were stunned and shocked to watch on TV, on the news, the gunman shooting those victims. I turned the TV off immediately and began to pray for those families,” Cope said. “And I know what they’re going through in losing their loved ones. It’s hard enough, but to have to see what they see forever, and you can go on any media, you can go on YouTube, and it’s not right.”
Opponents of the bill said it goes too far in restricting the public’s view of open trial.
Kentucky Press Association attorney Michael Abate said the open records law ensures the right to a fair trial for both the victims and the suspects by shining a light on the proceedings.
He expects the bill to be challenged in court immediately.
State Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, tied the issue to gun control.
She said Republicans have found a new way to avoid he debate by prohibiting images of school shootings from being shown to the public.
“This bill eats at the notion that somehow the public can’t face that which is most dark among our schools. I have to know. We will look,” Flood said. “And in spite of how dangerous a time we live in with this media, but really it’s us, we have to face what’s happening to our children who are being slaughtered with weapons of war.”
The bill passed 14-4 and now moves to the House floor.
A few of its supporters still had reservations about the bill being challenged in court. The only Democrat to vote for it, state Rep. Joe Graviss, said he actually hopes the courts will decide the issue.