NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A bill to prevent the release of child autopsies after a homicide failed in special session, but it will be coming back. It originated in the aftermath of the Covenant shooting earlier this year.
“I’ll certainly be refiling the bill in January,” House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) said. “I think these families absolutely deserve to have the privacy of their murdered children protected.”
Of course, not every lawmaker is on board. The bill passed unanimously in the House before the Senate declined to take it up during special session.
“Those should be public. They should be public record,” Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) said. “If I do a medical examiner report and someone questions that, that should be public record.”
Hensley is a medical examiner in Lewis and Wayne Counties. He doesn’t perform the autopsies, but he does sign off on them. The Republican said he understands the grief aspect behind the push to tamp them down but doesn’t see it the same way.
“Making those reports in the autopsies public just helps people be able to make sure that all legal aspects are followed and that the law enforcement is not missing something, perhaps,” Hensley said.
In an unusual turn, Lamberth may find his closest allies on this bill across the aisle, though Democrats say the bill needs some tweaking to accommodate more clearly for instances like officer-involved shootings.
“That bill was interesting,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) said. “I think it can be, and I think it needs to be, cleaned up a little bit to achieve the purposes they’re seeking.”
Much of the criticism outside the Capitol has been from open records advocates worrying about law enforcement cover-up, which Lamberth said is unfounded.
“We left a catch-all in the bill that a judge for any good cause could release these records,” he said. “Anybody could go down and actually request that.”
Regular session is set to start sometime in January.