The SeaWorld Killer Whale Death Video and the Right to Privacy

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6 Responses

  1. Ken says:

    Question from a non-attorney (me)…

    “In this instance, the video might be required to be disclosed by public records law, …”

    I wonder whether the public records law makes a distinction between records initiated by the public agency and other records created privately, then claimed by the public agency as evidence in their investigation.

    It seems to me that this situation should be different than one where the coroner’s office (for example) has taken their own photographs of an event, or a victim, as a part of their public responsibility. If, for example, the District Attorney obtains the private financial records of an individual in the course of investigating an accusation of fraud against a third party, it seems a stretch to then make those records of the victim part of “public records” available to the general public.

  2. TJ says:

    This might just reflect my ignorance, but I don’t see how the family has a good chance under the statutory exception. The statute bars release of a autopsy “held by a medical examiner.” It already seems to stretch language quite a bit to say that being killed by a killer whale is an “autopsy”; and I can’t imagine how one would say that it is performed by a doctor.

  3. Daniel Solove says:

    TJ — Interesting, as I had just assumed that the use of the video by the Sheriff’s Office to investigate the death was similar to the use of photos and videos by a state officer conducting an autopsy. Maybe the statute doesn’t technically address the circumstances in this case.

  4. Daniel Solove says:

    Dissent — I thought about that possibility, since the state is using video supplied by SeaWorld. The materials the state uses in its investigations might become public records under Florida law. I’m not sure, as I haven’t read Florida public records law in its entirety. Could SeaWorld block the disclosure? I’m not sure. Again, it would depend upon Florida public records law.