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City of Tallahassee to appeal DCA Marsy’s Law decision to Florida Supreme Court

Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 12:13 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 27, 2021 at 12:17 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The City of Tallahassee will be appealing the First District Court of Appeals’ decision on Marsy’s Law; the appeals court had ruled that it does apply to police officers, allowing their identities to remain secret in officer-involved shootings.

The City of Tallahassee has released a statement on its intent to ask for a review from the Florida Supreme Court on the First DCA’s Marsy’s Law decision.

The statement from City Attorney Cassandra Jackson reads:

“The City of Tallahassee intends to seek review before the Florida Supreme Court of the First District Court of Appeal’s April 6, 2021, decision finding that police officers, while performing their public duties, are to be afforded the protections of Marsy’s Law. This case is one of great public importance to the State of Florida in its appellate level interpretation of Article 1, Section 16 of the Florida Constitution (Marsy’s Law). With respect for the Court’s opinion and appreciation of the difficult work performed by police officers every day, the decision has far-reaching implications related to public transparency and is deserving of final review by Florida’s highest court.”

Cassandra Jackson, City Attorney

The First DCA decision reversed the trial court’s decision, in which a Leon County Circuit Court Judge had ruled that police officers could not be protected by Marsy’s Law while acting in their official capacities.

In the trial court order, Judge Charles Dodson wrote that the officers were not seeking protection from the “would-be accuseds,” but rather from “possible retribution for their on-duty actions from unknown persons in the community.”

Judge Dodson wrote that protection is outside the scope of Marsy’s Law, but an appellate court disagreed with his finding.

The First DCA overturned Dodson, ruling that a police officer meets the definition of a crime victim under Marsy’s Law “when a crime suspect threatens the officer with deadly force, placing the officer in fear for his life. That the officer acts in self-defense to that threat does not defeat the officer’s status as a crime victim.”

That decision means that in an officer-involved shooting, the officer’s identity would be kept confidential, as part of the protections afforded to a victim of a crime.

The City has not filed the appeal yet; it has 30 days from the appellate decision to file, with a deadline of May 6.

The Big Bend Police Benevolent Association told WCTV after the 1st DCA decision that they were relieved.

“The judges in the First DCA I believe strongly ruled in our favor, and they explained it great,” said President Richard Murphy. “We are part of this community, and we deserve the same protections as everybody else.”

Murphy says they’re ready to keep fighting.

“We’re confident we’re going to be victorious at the Supreme Court level also, but it’s just another hurdle that we have to jump through, and it’s unfortunate,” said Murphy. “Obviously I disagree with them filing the appeal, but that’s their right to do. And we’re looking forward to finally putting this issue to rest. We’re going to stand up and protect our members and continue to do that.”

The First Amendment Foundation and a group of News Media outlets had filed as intervenors in the original case, pushing for the names of officers to be released under public records law; an attorney for the group has confirmed to WCTV that they will be joining the City’s appeal.

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