1

The media indicates:

https://abcnews.go.com/US/lawyers-breonna-taylors-family-sue-police-existence-body/story?id=78753109&cid=clicksource_4380645_1_heads_hero_live_hero_hed

The lawsuit, filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court, claims police are withholding public records that would show whether there is additional body camera footage that could provide more details about the night Taylor was killed by police

If the assertions are proven to be true,

  1. What obligations do said authorities have to disclosed said video evidence?
  2. Is there a statute applicable in all states requiring authorities to not actively hide (deny) evidence?
  3. What mechanisms are in place to nudge institutions to not repeat the issue
  4. What access is provided in law to police collected evidence?

Would any and all statutes for question 2 have to be at the Federal level? Obviously IANAL.

3 Answers 3

3

You can read about the obligation to access public records under Kentucky law here. This page is the Louisville PD' statement about what is available. They state that "Some items have been redacted, blurred or withheld for privacy or legal reasons", noting for example that the statute "exempts from disclosure under the Open Records Act information that, if disclosed, would create an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Any further reference to redactions for personal privacy /concerns is also made pursuant to this law and/or HIPAA". The plaintiff's filing is not available and the police department has not commented, so we don't know exactly what is being demanded. However, the PD has not claimed that they are withholding the requested records for legal reasons, and the media alleges that the suit alleges that the PD lied about the existence of said records (note the double allegation). Body-worn cameras are specifically included here, and this part says that you can sue in county court. FOIA does not apply, because the Lousiville PD is not an agency of the US government.

2

In addition to the other answers, new obligations arise under civil litigation disclosure and discovery rules if the family sued for a civil rights violation (assuming that it knows enough to bring a suit that wouldn't automatically be dismissed in the first instance for failure to state a claim).

In this case, it appears that a sufficient lawsuit is pending, so this is really a discovery rule dispute, rather than a question of an independent right to obtain body cam footage outside of the litigation process.

In any criminal action against anyone charged in connection with the incident, not necessarily Taylor, the prosecution has a duty under the U.S. Supreme Court Brady case to disclose any potentially exonerating evidence to the defense, which would usually include all body cam footage. Of course, that only applies if there is someone charged criminally in the incident, which often doesn't happen in police shooting cases.

In this particular case, there was criminal charges brought, but the cases, if I recall correctly, have since been dismissed.

Would any and all statutes for question 2 have to be at the Federal level?

All or almost all of the statutes would be state statutes. State law differs considerably on this topic and is undergoing considerable legislative revision (in some states to make it harder to access and in some states to make it easier to access) at this time.

Typically, federal law would only apply if federal law enforcement officers were involved in the incident (e.g. a joint federal-state purported drug bust).

1

Generally speaking, the Freedom of Information Act (5 USC 552) requires all non-classified federal government documents be available to the public. Every state also has similar requirements (https://www.nfoic.org/state-freedom-of-information-laws/), so police camera footage, in theory, needs to be available to the public. As far as access, this varies by state, but at the federal level any document has to be available upon written request. There are, however, many exceptions, including classified information and evidence that is part of an ongoing investigation.

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