Sarasota Herald-Tribune challenges court order following fatal shooting

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Court Pic(shane battis)
Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 1:11 AM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The newspaper is pushing back against the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, which is shielding two of its deputies’ identities under Marsy’s law.

A Sarasota newspaper was back in court Tuesday, challenging a court order protecting the identities of deputies involved in a fatal shooting.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune is responding to an emergency injunction that was filed against them June 10, which orders the paper not to publish the names of two deputies responsible for shooting and killing Jeremiah Evans. We reported in April how Evans was killed by police when an effort to evict him from the Palm Place condos went wrong; SCSO explained Evans lunged at deputies with a knife and was then shot after de-escalation tactics didn’t work.

Protesters lined up outside the Sarasota County Judicial Center ahead of the hearing chanting, “Who killed Jeremiah Evans?” backing up the tribune’s effort to ensure transparency. The protest, organized by the Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida, insists accountability is a necessary component of justice.

Organizers told ABC7 they’re concerned a ruling in favor of the sheriff’s office could set a negative precedent for Florida and the rest of the country.

“We believe and we know that we need the data, the information and the transparency from the deputies, the sheriff’s deputies’ department, in order to protect our communities,” Sarah Parker, one of the co-founders of Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida, said.

However, the sheriff’s office is shielding the deputies’ identities under Marsy’s law, legislation designed to protect victims of crimes from harassment.

Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman declined to interview with ABC7, but he sent a statement writing that his office intends to “uphold the voters’ intent to protect victims of crime including law enforcement personnel,” and pointed out that using Marsy’s law for law enforcement personnel is the current state of the law unless the Florida Supreme Court overturns it.

The tribune’s executive editor, Jennifer Orsi, sees this differently.

She insists that publication of a law enforcement officer’s identity after a serious incident like a shooting is a standard journalistic practice. When a serious incident like a fatal shooting happens, it’s vital for journalists to take a close look at that law enforcement officer’s background like their training history and service record.

“We’re committed to fulfilling our First Amendment right to responsibly report on the news about this case, which is an important case and a matter of public interest,” Orsi said.

The judge presiding over this case did not make a ruling Tuesday, but is expected to make a final decision within the next week.

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