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Court finds 'no public purpose' in disclosing shooting victim's name

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Court finds 'no public purpose' in disclosing shooting victim's name 06/02/97 CALIFORNIA--In early May, a Superior Court judge in Riverside…

Court finds ‘no public purpose’ in disclosing shooting victim’s name

06/02/97

CALIFORNIA–In early May, a Superior Court judge in Riverside ordered the local police department not to disclose the identity of a woman who was shot in the back by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy, as well as any information about the investigation of the incident.

Judge Gary Trambarger issued a temporary restraining order requested by the woman, who argued that her privacy rights outweighed the public’s rights to know under the state open records law and that revealing her identity “would serve no public purpose.”

After the order was issued, The (Riverside) Press-Enterprise requested information pertaining to the incident from the police under the California Public Records Act. When the police denied the request based on the order, the newspaper asked the court to order the department to release the information. The newspaper asserted that the city has a duty to provide access to all public records. The court has scheduled a hearing for June 5 to hear argument on the petition and the temporary restraining order.

On April 24, the woman was shot when a gun belonging to off-duty sheriff’s Deputy Kyle Reed, discharged as the two were sitting in a pickup truck with another man.

The woman’s counsel wrote a letter in early May asking the newspaper to refrain from contacting their client if it learned her identity, stating that contact with the media would cause her “great emotional distress.” The letter further stated that the newspaper does not have a right to know the woman’s identity because she is not a public figure and that the information “will add nothing to” the newspaper’s “investigative storytelling.” (Press-Enterprise Co. v. City of Riverside; Media Counsel: John Boyd, Riverside)