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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ind. Gov't. - Editorial: "Rules could block Indiana's police video law"

A South Bend Tribune editorial today calls for the Supreme Court to step in. Some quotes:

Before its passage by the Indiana General Assembly earlier this year, we praised House Enrolled Act 1019 for restoring dash-cam and body-cam videos to the bright light of public scrutiny, “where they belong.”

But without a fix from the Indiana Supreme Court, such videos could be kept in the dark for an indefinite period. * * *

[T]he Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council has serious concerns that prosecutors could be in danger of being disciplined under the state Supreme Court’s Rules of Professional Conduct — specifically, Rules 3.6 and 3.8 — if police release video to the public before a criminal investigation is over or before a trial ends.

The rules prohibit influencing a potential jury pool and increasing public condemnation of a defendant.

As David Powell, executive director of IPAC, explained in a Friday op-ed in the Times of Northwest Indiana, “It is important to note that the Indiana Supreme Court has made it clear that prosecutors may not use the Access to Public Records Act as a tool to violate its Rules of Professional Conduct. Law enforcement recordings often include material that is prejudicial to a defendant. Releasing a prejudicial recording would violate the access laws and implicate the Rules of Professional Conduct.”

Steve Key, executive director and general counsel for the Hoosier State Press Association, says the remedy for this problem must come from the Indiana Supreme Court. “The legislature could change the law — but prosecutors would still be under (Rule) 3.8,” says Key, who doesn’t see the matter being resolved in the near future.

Some guidance from the court would help clarify whether the release of certain videos would violate its rules of conduct, but Powell notes, the court “doesn’t give advisory opinions; we’ve asked them to reconsider.”

Unless and until the court steps in, a law intended to support the public’s right to know falls short in that goal.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 14, 2016 10:28 AM
Posted to Indiana Government