Judge scolds newspaper for publishing details on Parkland shooting suspect

Judge scolds newspaper for publishing details on Parkland shooting suspect
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Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer scolded Florida's Sun Sentinel newspaper on Wednesday for publishing confidential information on the suspected Parkland shooter.

Scherer said the Sun Sentinel dodged her order that parts of the confidential report about the suspect, Nikolas Cruz, be redacted, the newspaper reported. While the Sun Sentinel reported that she did not penalize the paper, Scherer said she might limit what the media could write about the case via prior restraint.  

“From now on if I have to specifically write word for word exactly what you are and are not permitted to print — and I have to take the papers myself and redact them with a Sharpie ... then I’ll do that,” Scherer said.

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The school board had asked Scherer to hold the Sun Sentinel and two of its reporters in contempt of court after the paper published the information. The judge did not make a ruling on that request, according to the newspaper.

The school district had attempted to release a report on Cruz with parts of the text blacked out, as per Scherer’s orders.

However, the Sun Sentinel found that the whole report became readable when copied into a separate document. They proceeded to publish the entire report, which revealed oversights on the part of various Parkland officials.

A coalition of 30 media organizations gathered with the paper to file a brief Tuesday decrying the Parkland school board’s request, according to the newspaper.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly made it crystal clear that it is the government’s burden to safeguard information ... that does not belong in the public domain,” the media coalition wrote in their brief.

They continued, “When the government fails to fulfill that burden it cannot punish the press for publishing information provided by the government, even if through inadvertent disclosure.”

The Sun Sentinel also reported that the coalition's lawyer, Chuck Tobin, told them that an order dictating what the paper could publish would be “flatly unconstitutional.”

The Sun Sentinel’s editor-in-chief, Julie Anderson, stands by the paper’s decision to publish the report. She said after the hearing, “The Sun Sentinel obtained this report lawfully, found its contents to be of great public interest, and did its duty.”

Seventeen students and faculty died in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14.