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Court sends Columbine records dispute back to judge
Scripps-McClatchy Western Service


November 16, 2005

DENVER - The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that it's up to the sheriff's office to decide whether videotapes and writings seized from the homes of Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold should be made public.

The court said such recordings fall under the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act and as such, refusals to release them can be challenged in court.



"We won," said Steve Zansberg, attorney representing The Denver Post, which first sought their release.

Jefferson County District Judge Brooke Jackson refused their release in 2002 on the basis that they were private property and not subject to public disclosure.

The ruling is an important victory, Zansberg said, because judges must balance public and private interests to decide whether to release such information.

"This doesn't mean that we will automatically get them, but a judge will review a request that is denied," he said.

The recordings include videotapes Harris and Klebold made in the months before the deadly attack on Columbine High School in which 12 students and a teacher were killed. Known as the "basement tapes," they show the two planning and discussing the details of their attack on the school in 1999.

The Supreme Court ruled that the recordings are criminal justice records because they were obtained under a search warrant and used during the criminal investigation by Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.

As such, the court ruled, "they are subject to the sheriff's exercise of sound discretion to allow the requested inspection or not, utilizing a balancing test taking into account the relevant public private interests.

The court said the case must go back to the district court for a determination by the sheriff as to whether the information should be released.


Contact Sue Lindsay of the Rocky Mountain News
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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