Florida Judge Clears Way |for Release of Pulse Calls

     (CN) – A Florida judge granted news organizations access to hundreds of 911 calls related to the mass shooting last June at an Orlando gay nightclub, but said calls in which patron’s deaths can be overheard will be exempt from her order.
     In her ruling on Monday afternoon, Circuit Judge Margaret Schreiber sided with more than two dozen media groups who sued for the recordings three months ago, immediately after the June 12 shooting at the Pulse club.
     The city of Orlando immediately filed a countersuit, arguing the records were exempt from the state’s public records law, both because they were part of a federal investigation into the shooting and because some of them depicted patrons being killed.
     The U.S. Department of Justice tried to get the case moved to federal court but a federal judge said his court lacked jurisdiction and sent it back to state court.
     Earlier this month, the FBI said withholding the records was no longer necessary.
     Omar Mateen opened fire at the Pulse nightclub on June 12, killing 49 patrons amd wounding another 53 people.
     Mateen, who had pledged alliance to the Islamic State, was killed in a shootout with SWAT team members rescuing police officers after a three-hour standoff.
     Current state law prohibits the public release of any 911 calls that capture someone’s death. But that law will change on Oct. 1 to exempt only calls capturing the death of law enforcement officers. No officers died in the Pulse standoff.
     The city contends, however, that the Oct. 1 change to the law should not be retroactive; therefore all calls capturing patrons’ deaths would remain exempt, said Darryl Bloodworth, an attorney representing the city.
     The judge will decide during a hearing on Friday which of the more than 600 calls would be exempt under the current law. She may also consider whether the change to the law in October can be applied retroactively.
     In dismissing the city’s lawsuit , Judge Schreiber said many of the concerns raised by the city can be addressed in the news organization’s complaint.
     The news outlets say the release of the calls would help the public evaluate the response of the police to the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

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