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    Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Crime scene photos request sparks privacy debate

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on the issue of privacy and crime-scene photos:

    Using the Georgia Open Records Act, a Hustler magazine writer recently requested crime-scene photos of Meredith Emerson, the Buford hiker who was stripped naked and decapitated in the North Georgia woods in 2008. […]

    The [Emerson] family quickly obtained a temporary restraining order barring the photos’ release.

    Georgia lawmakers acted almost as quickly as the Emerson family. House Bill 1322, the “Meredith Emerson Privacy Act,” would change the state’s open records law to prohibit public disclosure of gruesome crime-scene photos.

    The matter has rekindled the debate over how to balance the rights of the public with those of crime victims and their families. […]

    The version of the “Meredith Emerson Privacy Act” approved unanimously last week by the House Governmental Operations Committee appears to allow broad exemptions to the Georgia Open Records Act.

    It would bar the disclosure of “crime scene materials which depict or describe a deceased person in a nude, bruised, bloodied or broken state with open wounds or in a state of dismemberment or decapitation.” This could be read to include not just crime-scene photos but also the police reports that describe such killings. […]

    First Amendment lawyers say the public’s interest must be carefully balanced against the privacy interests of a crime victim’s family.

    “Crime-scene photos are extremely important to reporters to better understand a crime,” said Miami lawyer Tom Julin, who represented the news media in the case involving the slain Gainesville college students. “They can serve an extremely important public service.”

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