Leon County Circuit orders City of Tallahassee to disclose names of officers involved in Tony McDade shooting

Published: Jul. 24, 2020 at 11:53 AM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A Leon County Circuit judge has ruled against the Police Benevolent Association’s interpretation of Marsy’s Law, ordering the City of Tallahassee to disclose the names of the officers involved in the Tony McDade shooting on May 27.

The PBA filed suit against the City to prevent the release of the officer names. The First Amendment Foundation, Florida Press Association, Gannett Co, Inc, Miami Herald Media Company and the New York Times Company filed as intervenors.

The City and intervenors argued the police officers were not covered by Marsy’s Law, and that the public records requests from members of the media needed to be met.

The order says, “The Court finds that the explicit language of Marsy’s Law was not intended to apply to law enforcement officers when acting in their official capacity.”

The judge says the officers are not seeking protection from the “would-be accuseds,” but rather from “possible retribution for their on-duty actions from unknown persons in the community.” He writes that protection is outside the scope of Marsy’s Law.

Judge Dodson also writes, “The public has a vital right to evaluate the conduct of our law enforcement officers, who are empowered to arrest people and use deadly force.”

The order says that if officers could avail themselves of “victim” status under Marsy’s Law, it would create a situation in which officers could act with anonymity in multiple situations.

“The Court must balance crime ‘victim’ rights under Marsy’s Law and the public’s right to hold government accountable by inspecting state records,” Dodson writes.

Judge Dodson ordered the City to disclose the public records in the filing.

PBA attorney Stephen Webster told WCTV they have filed a Notice to Appeal, which would operate as a temporary stay on the release of the officers’ names.

The City of Tallahassee has responded to the Notice and the stay:

The PBA has filed a motion to enforce the automatic stay provisions in the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure or, if inapplicable, to generally request a stay. The City has notified the Court that it opposes the entry of an order to stay the Court’s order of today pending the PBA appeal. It is the City’s position that the automatic stay provisions do not apply to enforce a private right but only a government right, and the PBA has failed to provide a basis otherwise for the entry of a stay pending appeal. The City will be filing its response in opposition to the PBA Motion for Stay momentarily. The Court will decide whether the City can proceed with release of the records.

Cassandra Jackson, City Attorney

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