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article imageNewtown seeks to deny newspapers access to death certificates

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By Ralph Lopez     Feb 21, 2013 in World
The Newtown, Connecticut Town Clerk is seeking to deny newspapers from viewing public record death certificates of Sandy Hook victims, according to the Newtown Bee.
The Clerk maintains that access to vital records such as death and marriage certificates should be limited to immediate family members or their representatives, and has undertaken to change present law.
The New York Post, the Connecticut Post, the Associated Press, the Hartford Courant, and other media have put forth requests for official death certificates of Sandy Hook victims, the Newton Bee report says. Newtown Town Clerk Debbie Aurelia says she is working with State Representatives Dan Carter, Mitch Bolinsky, and the leadership of the state association of town clerks to craft state legislation:
"that would provide the press and public with limited directory information from death and marriage records, but would withhold the actual death and marriage certificates."
Death certificates are part of vital public records, which also include birth and marriage certificates. They are public domain documents used, ultimately, to determine official recognition of presence or past presence in civil society. They also serve as a mechanism for upholding the integrity of information in which there is a public interest, as it relates to voting, citizenship, and receiving public benefits. Abuses of voting processes involving voters who, unbeknownst to the public, are actually dead, are legendary.
Death certificates typically contain little information about manner of death beyond categories such as "natural cause," "homicide," "accident," "suicide," or "other." News organizations utilize such records in crime reporting as a standard part of normal, often tedious, fact-checking procedures. Death certificates also contain the sworn statement of the medical examiner.
The Newtown Bee stated:
"Ms Aurelia said she has received requests for death certificates and other proprietary information from the New York Post , the Connecticut Post , the Associated Press and the Hartford Courant among others."
"Some are also requesting all my e-mail correspondence and text messages related to 12/14," she said."
According to the Newtown Bee, Assistant Town Clerk Renee Weimann said "I feel it’s my responsibility to protect these victims. They’ve been through enough.” Last December 14th, 20 children and 8 adults died in a shooting rampage by alleged shooter Adam Lanza.
Ms Aurelia and members of her staff testified in favor of such a bill at a hearing of the state's Public Health Committee last February 20th. The law would also exclude members of the public who are not "immediate family/authorized agency/attorney" from viewing the records, according to the Newtown Bee.
The Bee reported that the media and other sources have been making the requests under existing Freedom of Information Act laws. Media can take local, state, and federal government agencies to court over failure to comply with requests for information.
The move comes as the public awaits the answers to questions such as whether or not alleged shooter Adam Lanza was on any psychiatric medications, especially those known as SSRIs which some psychiatrists maintain have been associated with thousands of incidents of random violence, and have a causal effect. Also lacking is any further elaboration on a Connecticut State's Attorney's statement last December, in a court motion, that there may be other "potential suspects," and that revealing certain evidence at this time might "seriously jeopardize" the investigation. Connecticut State's Attorney Stephen Sedensky also said that revealing certain evidence at this time might:
"identify persons cooperating with the investigation, thus possibly jeopardizing their personal safety and well-being."
Yesterday the Hartford Courant ran a report in which Jim Smith, president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, said a death certificate is a factual document that lacks the details of an autopsy report. The Courant quotes Smith saying:
“There isn’t anything in a death certificate that is going to hurt the deceased...it’s not like an autopsy report. It’s been public for centuries. It’s not going to invade anyone’s privacy.’’
CT State Representatives Bolinsky and Carter, and Newtown Town Clerk Aurelia, all argued, according to the Courant, that identify theft was a concern, since the maiden name of the deceased's mother is on death certificates. However, this is also on birth certificates, which are not a target of the trio. Also, the proposed legislation would seal the death records only of minors under 18. It is unclear why identity thieves would not merely steal the identities of people over that age.
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