St. Petersburg Times Online: News of Florida
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather
  • Bill would ease rules for heart programs
  • Boy gets life, no parole, for strangling playmate
  • Legislature 2001
  • New College ready to cut ties with USF
  • Bill restricting autopsy photos sent to House
  • Abused kids can sue parents, court says
  • Around the state

  • From the state wire

  • Hurricane Jeanne appears on track to hit Florida's east coast
  • Rumor mill working overtime after Florida hurricanes
  • Developments associated with Hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne
  • Four killed in Panhandle plane crash were on Ivan charity mission
  • Hurricane Frances caused estimated $4.4 billion in insured damage
  • Disabled want more handicapped-accessible voting machines
  • USF forces administrators to resign over test score changes
  • Man's death at Universal Studios ruled accidental
  • State child welfare workers in Miami fail to do background checks
  • Hurricane Jeanne heads toward southeast U.S. coast
  • Hurricane Jeanne spurs more anxiety for storm-weary Floridians
  • Mistrial declared in case where teen was target of racial "joke"
  • Panhandle utility wants sewer plant moved to higher ground
  • State employee arrested on theft, bribery charges
  • Homestead house fire kills four children, one adult
  • Pierson leader tries to cut off relief to local fern cutters
  • Florida's high court rules Terri's law unconstitutional
  • Jacksonville students punished for putting stripper pole in dorm
  • FEMA handling nearly 600,000 applications for help
  • Man who killed wife, niece, self also killed mother in 1971
  • Producer sues city over lead ball fired by Miami police
  • Tourism suffers across Florida after pummeling by hurricanes
  • Key dates in the life of Terri Schiavo
  • An excerpt from the unanimous ruling in the Schiavo case
  • Four confirmed dead after small plane crash in Panhandle
  • Correction: Disney-Cruise Line story

    printer version

    Bill restricting autopsy photos sent to House

    Dale Earnhardt's widow and the Orlando Sentinel remain at odds over the paper's bid for his pictures.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 16, 2001

    The first day of mediation over Dale Earnhardt's autopsy photos ended without an agreement Thursday, and a bill that would limit public access to them advanced in the Legislature.

    Talks are scheduled to resume today between Earnhardt's widow and the Orlando Sentinel over her efforts to block the newspaper from seeing her husband's autopsy photos.

    Teresa Earnhardt said in the meeting that releasing the photos of the NASCAR legend would cause "permanent distress" to the family without public benefit.

    Meanwhile, state lawmakers took another step toward limiting public access to autopsy photos, positioning the full House to vote on the issue as early as next week.

    A bill that cleared a House committee Thursday would make it a felony, punishable by five years in prison, to release autopsy photos without the family's permission or a court order.

    House and Senate versions of the legislation call for the restrictions to apply retroactively, meaning the Sentinel would be barred from having an independent authority look at the Earnhardt photos unless his family or a judge agreed.

    The Sentinel has said it doesn't plan to publish the photos, but wants an outside expert to examine them as it looks into NASCAR safety. However, another party has entered the case, aWeb site called that hasn't ruled out publishing them.

    The retroactive element makes the proposed legislation vulnerable to a lawsuit, said Jon Kaney, an attorney representing the Daytona Beach News-Journal in a related public records case pending before the state Supreme Court.

    Florida courts have ruled that lawmakers cannot retroactively take away a "vested right" such as access to public records, Kaney said. "That is rightfully and certainly should be unconstitutional," he said.

    On Thursday, the House Committee on State Administration approved the bill 3-2, rejecting an amendment supported by representatives of the Sentinel and the Florida Press Association. The amendment, by state Rep. Perry C. McGriff Jr., D-Gainesville, would have preserved current law allowing for public inspection of autopsy photos. However, the amendment would have required a court order to reproduce the photos.

    State Rep. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, said her previous concerns that banning access to the photos would compromise public safety were resolved by changes in the bill that would make exceptions for local, state and federal agencies.

    Otherwise, "I just can't see a reason why anybody would benefit" from public disclosure, Dockery said.

    Gov. Jeb Bush has endorsed the effort to restrict access to the photos.

    "We are disheartened by the growing number of media and individuals including a Web site that have joined the Orlando Sentinel in its quest to gain access to the autopsy photos of Dale," Mrs. Earnhardt said. "We are convinced that if access is granted it is inevitable that the images will soon appear elsewhere, including on the Internet, and cause permanent distress to my family and to Dale's legacy with no real public benefit."

    Recent coverage

    Butterworth joins autopsy photo fight (March 10, 2001)

    After grief, public stake in pictures seems clear (March 9, 2001)

    The fight over photos (March 8, 2001)

    Keep autopsy photos public (March 8, 2001)

    Recent coverage

    Florida Legislature Session 2001

    Back to State news
    Back to Top

    © 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
    490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
    Special Links
    Lucy Morgan

    From the Times state desk