Judge issues ruling at 11:58 p.m. to block release of Covenant School killer’s manifesto, other documents

News & Politics

A Tennessee judge has ruled that writings from the Covenant school killer will not be released “at this time.”

There has been an ongoing legal battle to secure the release of the writings that the killer left behind. After the tragedy last year, Nashville police vowed to release the documents, but that day never came. The FBI pressured against the release of the documents, and the families of the victims oppose the documents making their way into public hands.

‘Compliance with both the TPRA and federal copyright law cannot be accomplished, therefore state law must cede to federal law.’

But the other side argues there is a compelling public and constitutional interest requiring the documents be made public.

Just minutes before the clock struck midnight on July 4 — at 11:58 p.m., according to court documents — Davidson County Chancellor I’Ashea Myles (D) issued a ruling that blocks the release of the documents — at least for now.

“Tennessee courts have determined that unfettered access to every record at any time does not serve to uphold the system of justice that we all depend upon to ensure that the criminal legal system and investigations remain fair and impartial for every involved person,” Myles wrote in her ruling.

As legal justification for her ruling, Myles cited the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.

“Based upon Supremacy Clause and conflict preemption, the federal Copyright Act serves as a valid exemption to the Tennessee Public Records Act and thus preempts the disclosure of any original work of authorship in any form created by the assailant,” she explained.

“Compliance with both the TPRA and federal copyright law cannot be accomplished, therefore state law must cede to federal law,” she added.

Legally, the victims possess ownership over the documents after the killer’s family transferred legal ownership of them last year.

Even documents not protected by copyright law, Myles ruled, do not have to be released until the “investigation and any collateral criminal proceedings are complete.”

In a statement after the ruling, the city of Nashville said officials will release documents upon the conclusion of the investigation — with the exception of the killer’s writings. The investigation, the statement added, “is in its final stages.”

The victims’ families praised the ruling, which will likely be appealed.

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