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From start to finish

From the Spring 2001 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 8.

From the Spring 2001 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 8.

Two months passed from the first part of the Orlando Sentinel series to the day a medical expert’s disclosure validated the series on NASCAR safety.

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February

11-13th: Orlando Sentinel runs articles about NASCAR safety.

18th: Dale Earnhardt dies at Daytona International Speedway.

19th: Earnhardt’s autopsy performed. Volusia County medical examiner concludes he died from a basilar skull fracture.

21th: NASCAR expert reviews autopsy photos.

22th: Earnhardt’s widow sues the medical examiner to prevent release of photos.

23rd: NASCAR announces at a press conference that Earnhardt died because seatbelt broke, causing his chin to hit the steering wheel. Sentinel sues to get autopsy photos.

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March

5th: Teresa Earnhardt says disclosure of photos invades her privacy. She asks lawmakers to prevent release of photos.

6th: Lawmakers receive more than 12,000 email messages demanding that photos not be released.

7th: Senate bill introduced that would make it a third-degree felony to release the autopsy photos without a court order.

16th: Sentinel and Earnhardt agree the newspaper’s expert can review the photos, but they will be sealed.

26th: Court-appointed expert Barry S. Myers from Duke University reviews photos.

29th: Senate passes the bill and governor signs it six hours later.

30th: Orlando Sentinel and Sun-Sentinel file lawsuit challenging constitutionality of the new law in Broward County.

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April

5th: Volusia County judge allows Independent Florida Alligator to intervene in Volusia County case to challenge settlement between Earnhardt and Sentinel.

10th: Dr. Myers’ report is released, finding Earnhardt died from a head-whip basilar skull fracture.