Judge Rules Documents Seized From Newtown Killer Lanza Must Remain Secret – Hartford Courant

04/11/16 – By Matthew Kauffman


Documents seized from the home of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza will remain secret, following a Superior Court judge’s ruling that the records are private property not subject to the state Freedom of Information Act. [Read More]

State police appeal FOI ruling that Lanza documents be released – Hartford Courant

By David Moran

State police have appealed a Freedom of Information Commission ruling that the department must make available personal documents seized from Adam Lanza’s home during the course of the investigation into the 2012 killings of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The appeal was filed on June 26. In addition to the FOIC, it names the Hartford Courant and David Altimari, a reporter at the Courant, as defendants.

The appeal asks the court to reverse a May 13 unanimous decision by the commission that state police must make documents seized from Lanza’s home available to the public. The commission made the ruling, in part, because of the state’s expense investigating the Sandy Hook shooting and the worldwide media attention the shooting garnered.

The ruling “failed to conclude that seized property is under the control of the judicial branch and thus is not a public record,” the appeal contends.

The Courant attempted to obtain copies of documents noted in the state police’s investigation into the massacre beginning in January of 2014, but the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, which oversees the state’s police force, has been blocking those efforts.

State Police, Media Battle in Court Over Newtown Shooter’s Documents – Connecticut Law Tribune

Months after the Newtown tragedy, State Police released a lot of information on their investigation into the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings and gunman Adam Lanza, but they didn’t release everything, and a court battle between authorities and the media over unreleased documents has ensued.

The Hartford Courant has requested documents which are referenced in the State Police report on the Dec. 14, 2012, shootings, but which haven’t been made public. Lanza, 20, killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, at home, then fatally shot 20 children and six adults inside the school before committing suicide.

A spiral-bound book, called “The Big Book of Granny,” is among the unreleased items which had been seized from Lanza’s home. A state Office of the Child Advocate report describes it as the killer’s fifth-grade project, with a narrative related to child murder, cannibalism and taxidermy.

The Courant is also seeking a class photo [Read more]

FOI Commission: State Police Must Turn Over Lanzas’ Papers – Hartford Courant

HARTFORD — State police must make available to the public personal documents seized from Adam Lanza’s house during the course of the investigation into the 2012 killings of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the state’s Freedom of Information Commission unanimously ruled Wednesday.

The ruling came as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request from The Courant seeking copies of documents mentioned in the state police’s report into the massacre but never made available to the public. The Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, which oversees the state’s police force, has blocked The Courant’s efforts to obtain those documents since January 2014.

William Fish, the attorney representing The Courant, argued that the documents, which include a comic book written by Lanza titled “The Big Book of Granny,” were public records in part because of the state’s great expense related to the investigation and the worldwide media coverage that the shooting triggered.

“To stand in front of this commission and suggest that these records don’t pertain to the public’s interest is simply wrong,” Fish said.

Steven M. Barry, the attorney representing the state at the hearing, said the items were not public records because they were personal property of the Lanzas seized by warrant during the course of the investigation.

“These items are not a public record, they are seized property,” Barry said.

Barry said state police had an obligation to restrict access to personal property in such instances until either the courts directed them what to do with the items or the owner made a claim on them.

“This would turn the law enforcement exemption on its head if once [evidence] came into possession of state police that item was suddenly a public document,” Barry said.

Fish said that Barry was using the claim that the items were evidence as a blanket exception to circumvent the FOI statute because the state police had concluded the investigation into the shootings, Adam Lanza had taken his own life and the case was never going to wind up in court.

“The law enforcement exemption does not apply because the perpetrator is dead and there will be no prosecution,” he said.

When FOI Commissioner Jonathan Einhorn questioned Barry further on this interpretation of the statute, he said it was the state police’s position that it could hold evidence indefinitely in such circumstances.

“It’s the obligation of the police to sort of hold this for the owner,” Barry said.

Einhorn then questioned whether state police were being “inconsistent” in their interpretation of what was and wasn’t a public document.

“The police thought to disclose this already to the public,” Einhorn noted.

Kathleen K. Ross, the hearing officer who ruled in The Courant’s favor, noted in her report that the supervisor of the department’s legal affairs unit had not even looked at the documents that The Courant was seeking.

“Although she had not looked at the requested documents, she believed that some of the documents might be exempt from disclosure,” Ross wrote.

The commission unanimously voted to uphold Ross’ report without any debate.

Barry declined to comment after the hearing on the commission’s ruling. The Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection did not immediately comment on the decision Wednesday afternoon.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, The Courant had not received the requested documents. The state has 30 days to appeal.

WNPR-FM comes to Quinnipiac


John Dankosky


Join host John Dankosky for a discussion on Freedom of Information issues in Connecticut, including an update on the Newtown/Sandy Hook shooting investigation.

What: Panel discussion will be recorded for air later

Where: Student Center 120

Date: Oct. 30, 2014

Time: 12:30-1:30 p.m.


Daniel Klau, Hartford attorney, First Amendment and Media Law specialist.

James Smith, Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information president. Encouraged Gov. Dannel Malloy to push for the release of state police information regarding the Sandy Hook investigation.

Khalilah Brown-Dean, political science professor at Quinnipiac.

Edward Alwood, journalism professor at Quinnipiac.


Sponsored by:

QU School of Communications and Connecticut Foundation for Open Government


Failing An FOI Pop Quiz – The Newton Bee

Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act has been on the books for nearly 40 years. A couple of generations of public servants have been operating under its provisions. Yet after decades of illumination by the state’s Sunshine Laws, our elected and appointed representatives in government continue to wander into the shadows, where they stumble over provisions of the act that should be well known to everyone by now.

As a result of one such stumble late last year, a public education officer for the Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC) was in town September 29 to conduct a workshop for local officials, reminding them of their obligations under the law, and answering any questions they might have. While the law is lengthy with many provisions, it is perfectly clear on issues that seem to cause local boards and commissions the most trouble: giving proper notice of public meetings, including warnings and reasons for when those meetings will be closed for private discussion; and the narrow scope of topics suitable for discussion in these “executive sessions.”

The September 29 session was ordered by the FOIC in response to a citizen complaint about one such closed session involving four local boards considering the Sandy Hook School project on December 9, 2013. The published warning of the executive session was too vague, according to the commission. So after brushing up on their responsibilities for posting agendas and for keeping public discussions public on Monday last week, Newtown’s local officials should be able to avoid similar sloppy and incorrect applications of the law for some time to come. Right?

Fast forward 24 hours. The members of the Board of Education, three of whom, including the chairman, attended the FOIC workshop the previous evening, met on September 30 and convened an executive session that was not warned in their posted agenda for the meeting. Additionally, they closed the session ostensibly for “reflection” on standards set by the board for self-assessment – standards that were initially described and set for public discussion in the agenda for the special meeting. Note: this closed session was not for an evaluation of an employee nor apparently for the actual self-assessment of the school board, but for a reflection on the standards for board self-assessment. It was not a discussion of safety and security measures, it was a reflection on how school officials can better communicate about safety and security issues. These topics are clearly not covered in the FOI Act’s exemptions for executive sessions.

It is ironic that the apparent underlying theme of discussion in the school board’s closed session was better communication. The board’s awkward stumble from transparency to opacity was based on a sloppy interpretation of clear language in the Freedom of Information Act based on an inadvertent, or willful, misreading of the language in their own agenda. Each misstep was antithetical to better communication. It was a discussion that would have benefited the public to hear. Coming so close on the heels of the September 29 FOI workshop, it was the equivalent of taking a pop quiz right after a lesson — and failing. We only wish that the board members had paid closer attention to their FOI lessons and had taken greater care in educating themselves on the public’s right to know.

Tighter Rules OK’d On Public’s Access To Crime Records – Courant.com

HARTFORD — The stage is set for a showdown at the General Assembly on crime victim privacy and the public’s right to know.


On Tuesday, the legislature’s judiciary committee approved a bill that would establish new restrictions on the public’s ability to access police records such as 911 tapes and crime scene photos. It also would prohibit the release of photographs of child murder victims.

In urging his colleagues to back the bill, Sen. Eric Coleman, D-Bloomfield, said it strikes the right balance. The measure mirrors the recommendations of a legislative task force formed last year to study issues of privacy versus disclosure, after some families of victims killed in the 2012 Newtown school…Click here to continue reading.