South Florida Sun-Sentinel
April 12, 2019
An iron curtain of secrecy has fallen between the people of Florida and the government that’s supposed to keep them safe from crime. The new constitutional amendment with the beguiling nickname of Marsy’s Law has spawned widespread contempt for the state’s tradition of public records and open government.
It owes to an ambiguous provision that promises privacy to crime victims to shield them from harassment. Many law enforcement officials have been over-reacting by closing off information that has always been public, such as homicide records a quarter-century old, the name of a police officer who shot into a moving car, and the identities of both the victim and the suspect in a vehicular homicide.
At Jacksonville, police are even refusing to say where a crime occurred if it happened at a victim’s home. Such enforced ignorance leaves neighborhoods more vulnerable to burglary and rape and stifle a major source of crime-fighting tips. Moreover, it’s pointless to the point of absurdity. The criminal already knows where he committed the crime.
There’s even a danger, slight perhaps but not negligible, that court proceedings will be cast into darkness in disregard of a defendant’s constitutional right to a public trial and to confront accusers.
Now, word comes that a legislative committee will propose a bill to implement the controversial privacy provision. That could be an opportunity to apply common sense to the problem. But given the proven influence of the Marsy’s Law nationwide lobby, including Kelsey Grammar, it could also make matters worse.