weather icon Partly Cloudy

County withholds autopsy reports for Las Vegas shooting victims

Updated February 20, 2018 - 7:26 pm

Clark County has stopped releasing autopsy reports for all 58 victims of the Oct. 1 mass shooting, despite a district judge’s ruling that the reports are public records.

County spokesman Dan Kulin said the moratorium is in response to an ongoing lawsuit one victim’s widow filed against the county coroner’s office, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and The Associated Press.

“At this time, we are not releasing the victims’ autopsy reports pending the outcome of legal action involving the media and a victim’s family, which is pending appeal before the Nevada Supreme Court,” Kulin wrote in an email.

This month District Judge Timothy Williams ordered the county to release the victims’ autopsy reports after redacting some identifying information — including names, ages, hometowns and racial characteristics. The county released the reports to an estimated 100 members of the media, including Review-Journal reporters.

But last week District Judge Richard Scotti ordered the Review-Journal and AP to destroy the report of slain Metro officer Charleston Hartfield, whose widow sued the two organizations and the county. The ruling also barred the media organizations from further reporting on Hartfield’s autopsy details.

Scotti’s order did not apply to the autospy reports of the other 57 men and women killed during the Route 91 Harvest music festival.

Emails provided to the Review-Journal by a woman whose request for the victim autopsy reports was denied show the county stopped releasing the reports as far back as Feb. 7. That denial came about five days after Hartfield’s widow sued.

First Amendment advocates rebuked the county.

“The fact that Clark County is withholding other autopsy reports clearly goes beyond the scope of (Scotti’s) order. The order pertains to one specific autopsy report,” said Clay Calvert, director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida. “The government is erring on the side of privacy here instead of the public’s right to know, which is extremely problematic given the gravity of the shooting in Las Vegas.”

Nevada Press Association Executive Director Barry Smith criticized county officials as “misinterpreting the law” to deny access to public records.

“A reasonable compromise was reached to remove personal information from the reports, so what does the county not want people to see?” he asked.

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Tomi Lahren Speaks at UNLV - VIDEO
Fox News contributor and UNLV alumna Tomi Lahren returned to campus Wednesday night for a speech, titled “Stay Triggered,” that drew an auditorium of supporters as well as a group of protesters outside. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders released from Las Vegas hospital - VIDEO
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., issues a statement after he was released from Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week. (Bernie Sanders via Twitter)
Democratic presidential candidates speak on impeachment - VIDEO
Democratic presidential candidates attending the March for Our Lives/Giffords Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas comment on possible impeachment proceedings. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden Las Vegas Rally Highlights - Video
2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden, came to Las Vegas to talk guns, climate change and the Ukranian-Trump scandal. Biden was interrupted by a protestor who sat amongst supporters at the rally and continued with his speech. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden comments on Trump and his campaign efforts in Nevada - Video
After an impeachment inquiry was opened on Donald Trump, Joe Biden talks with Review-Journal politics reporter Rory Appleton about Trump and his campaign in Nevada. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)