By Linda Sutter – April 2, 2021
AB 268: Autopsy Records
The First Amendment Coalition strongly opposes California Assembly Bill 268, which would allow courts and agencies to indefinitely withhold autopsy reports and other records related to investigations into those killed as a result of a criminal act. Public access to such records ensures that coroners and medical examiners adequately discharge their duties and remain accountable to the public.
Autopsy reports and related records have been the basis of important accountability journalism in California and across the country that has revealed bungled homicide investigations, assessed the effectiveness of law enforcement and other public safety systems, and exposed flaws in physician oversight.
Crucially, the bill contains a litany of flaws that run afoul of First Amendment principles. First, it allows family members who have witnessed or played a role in a person’s death, but were not prosecuted in the death, to invoke the sealing process. Second, it grants prosecutorial agencies broad and unfettered discretion to make findings that could result in sealing. Read our full letter in opposition.
Public hearing: The bill is being heard by the Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, April 6 at 1:30 p.m.
Track the bill: Follow AB 268.1