Major media organizations sue the Texas Department of Public Safety for records from the Uvalde Case
By: April Carson
A group of more than a dozen major news organizations has filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Public Safety to obtain public records regarding the Robb Elementary School massacre. The coalition includes CNN, the Texas Tribune, and many of the country's largest news publishers.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Texas officials have been stonewalling and deceiving news organizations for weeks in order to protect their "closely held" information. This is unacceptable. The public has a right to know what happened in the Uvalde case, and the Texas DPS has an obligation to provide those records.
The complaint, which was filed in state court in Austin under the Texas Public Information Act, is seeking information from the city of Cedar Park. The news organizations said they have made numerous requests for information previously and that there has been an "ensuing failure to release public records about this disgraceful event."
"The Texas Department of Public Safety's shifting accounts of how law enforcement responded to the Uvalde incident have created doubt and aggravation in a community that is still healing from tragedy and shock," said Laura Lee Prather, a First Amendment lawyer at Haynes Boone who represents the plaintiffs. "We're asking the court to grant our petition so that Texans may learn the truth about what occurred. Even though DPS has repeatedly refused these news organizations' requests, it is clear under Texas law that the general public is entitled to access to these vital public records."
The news outlets are seeking an order from the court to compel the public safety department to produce all responsive records, according on their complaint. The suit claims that the public safety department has "partially disclosed" information while failing to respond to more comprehensive requests. As a result, the media organizations are requesting that the court order the agency "to produce all relevant documents."
The New York Times, Wall Street Journal owner Dow Jones, The Washington Post, ProPublica, and ABC, CBS, NBC are among the other participating news organizations. Local TV and media firms Gannett and Scripps as well as Graham Media have joined in.
The suit also seeks damages for "expenses incurred" as well as attorneys' fees.
"We have to get to the truth," Nicole Carroll, the editor in chief of Gannett's USA Today, said on CNN's "Reliable Sources" last month. "And we're fighting for these records so that we can get the facts."
"We've been misled, documents have been withheld," she complained. "They've been stonewalling us and changing their stories," she added. "We've been misinformed; they're using false excuses."
The DPS has not responded to the lawsuit, but a spokesman told CNN last month that the agency "takes very seriously our responsibility to protect the privacy of individuals and personal information."
The agency has also said that it is "committed to providing as much information as possible while still protecting the integrity of the investigation."
"We have worked diligently to provide the media with as much information as possible while still protecting the integrity of this ongoing investigation," DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said.
The suit comes after months of requests from news organizations for documents related to the case. In July, DPS released some heavily redacted records, including an incident report and 911 calls, but withheld other key records, citing the ongoing investigation.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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