A citizen journalism site has filed a lawsuit against St. Louis County, Missouri to try and get the juvenile criminal records of Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old who was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, publicly released.
GotNews has filed a suit against the county after editor-in-chief Charles C. Johnson was allegedly contacted by law enforcement letting him know that Brown had a juvenile record that included a second-degree murder charge.
“To find out if those police officers are correct requires seeing Brown's juvenile arrest record, which ought to be freely available given that he is dead and therefore has no right to privacy remaining,” said Johnson. “Knowing the truth about Brown's past will help us gauge the credibility of his parents and family who have called him a 'gentle giant.’”
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(via IJ Review)
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Attorney Jonathan Burns, who is arguing the case on behalf of GotNews, says that the records should be freely released to the public.
“What we’re arguing is that since he is deceased, those documents revert from being confidential, they revert back into the public sphere,” said Burns. “Missouri common law applies, and under Missouri common law, court records and virtually all other documents are open to the public.”
Still, some say that because the arrest record is juvenile and not adult, there is no legal standing for releasing it to the public.
“To suggest that the general public has a right to know what any juvenile does in any situation is ludicrous,” said Tricia Harrison, law professor at St. Louis University. “It’s only legitimate persons having a legitimate interest in their situation.”
The first court hearing in this case is scheduled for September 3.