Jun
01

No Need For Secrecy In Newtown

Oh, how sensitive they all were. How considerate, how kind, how diplomatic. Governor Dannel Malloy, Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, state lawmakers, all sitting secretly clucking their tongues in a sickly sweet chorus of concern. “We shall keep secret things too painful to be spoken of,” they decided. Why, their very decision is so sensitive it cannot even be debated in an open forum.

I suppose we all ought to be thankful this unctuous gaggle of civil servants is protecting us from knowing the truth. But just who elected these clowns to serve as existential censors? 

Nothing justifies the insulting and secret legislative proceedings designed to keep secret significant parts of the investigation of the Newtown shootings.

The shootings at the Newtown elementary school last December were horrible. Twenty children and six adults mowed down by a lone gunmen. In an instant, the very word “Newtown” became synonymous with the names of other places that have become ciphers for mindless rage: we have our very own Columbine right here in the land of steady habits.

Lawmen continue to dilly and dally about composing their final report. Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky first told us there would be something completed in June. Now the spokesman for the Connecticut State Police, J. Paul Vance, states the report my not be completed until the fall. Why the delay. It takes time to do a complete and accurate report.

This isn’t exactly a whodunnit, guys. The gunman, Adam Lanza, was killed at the scene. The identity of the victims has been publicized. If writing a report about this event yields intellectual lockdown among investigators, how are we to have any confidence they are up to task of reliably handling unsolved crimes?

Of course, the real reason for all this foot dragging is that lawmen don’t want to release the report at all. Or if they do release something, they want to make sure what goes public is sanitized, safe and sensitive.

What a crock of nonsense.

When a politician starts claiming that information is too sensitive to be shared, I can’t wondering what they are hiding. In the war on terror, national security is used as justification to keep secret all sorts of things. We don’t even know, for example, who is on national “no fly” lists. Just this week, I received a call from a judge outraged by a family member was treated at an airport. 

We justify this secrecy by saying our enemies should not know our secret strategies and tactics of self-protection.

There is no such justification for keeping secret the Newtown investigation. As near as I can tell, this was an isolated act by an unhinged gunman. I somehow doubt al-Qaeda’s going to read the report and send suicide shooters to our schools.

The justification offered for this usurpation of the public’s right to know is tender regard for the sensibilities of the families of those killed. In an age in which information flows freely and seemingly without editorial restraint on the Internet, that is not an empty concern. On balance, however, I am more chilled by the prospect of lawmen playing moral censor than I am by Internet sensationalization.

Legislation shuffled through the General Assembly without debate? That’s a greater danger to public safety than an isolated shooting. That’s a clear and present danger to fundamental values about transparency, debate and the rule of law. Shame on this secret cabal.

 

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About Norm Pattis

Norm Pattis is a Connecticut based trial lawyer focused on high stakes criminal cases and civil right violations. He is a veteran of more than 100 jury trials, many resulting in acquittals for people charged with serious crimes, multi-million dollar civil rights and discrimination verdicts, and scores of cases favorably settled.

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I believe that the state is a necessary fiction and that failing to combat it is the first step toward tyranny.
– Norm Pattis

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Nothing in this blog should be considered legal advice about your case. You need a lawyer who understands the context of your life and situation. What are offered here are merely suggested lines of inquiry you may explore with your lawyer.

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