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A new Marsy’s Law case involving police is bolstering media groups seeking answers from the Florida Supreme Court

Patrick Sternad
/
WFSU Public Media

A recent case out of Boynton Beach is calling new attention to Marsy’s Law, Florida’s 2018 law designed to boost and protect crime victims’ rights.

A 13-year-old boy on a dirt bike was killed the day after Christmas as police tried to pull him over for riding recklessly. Now, the Boynton Beach police officer who attempted the traffic stop is seeking to have his identity withheld.

“The law enforcement officer in that case is claiming he's a victim under Marsy's Law,” says First Amendment Foundation Executive Director Pamela Marsh. “Yet in that case, there was no aggression from the young boy. There was no violence from the boy towards the law enforcement officer.”

Marsh says various media groups and law enforcement organizations are in the process of filing briefs with the Florida Supreme Court seeking clarity around Marsy’s Law. A Tallahassee case now before the court asks whether law enforcement officers can have their identities shielded when they’re threatened by suspects.

“Tony McDade was killed in a violent encounter with the police. The City of Tallahassee wanted to release the records because the public was very interested in the story,” Marsh says. “The Police Benevolent Association, the police union, was opposed to releasing the records. They claimed that the identities of the law enforcement officers were protected under Marsy's Law because the law enforcement officers were victims of a violent assault by Tony McDade.”

A circuit court judge ruled that the officers’ identities should not be protected, but the ruling was overturned by an appellate court. Now, the Florida Supreme Court is being asked to answer questions surrounding how Marsy’s Law should be applied.

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