Records exemption sought for murder witnesses

By News Service of Florida

A South Florida House member Monday filed a bill that would create a public-records exemption for information that would identify witnesses in murder cases.

The bill, filed by Rep. Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami, would make the information exempt from disclosure for two years after murders are witnessed.

The measure says such a public-records exemption is needed because identifying information could have a "chilling effect" on witnesses cooperating with authorities.

"A witness to a murder may be unwilling to cooperate fully with law enforcement officers if the witness knows his or her personal identifying information can be made publicly available," the bill says. "A witness may be less likely to call a law enforcement officer and report a murder if his or her personal identifying information is made available in connection with the murder that is being reported or under investigation. The Legislature further finds that a witness could become the subject of intimidation tactics or threats by the perpetrator of the murder if the witness's personal identifying information is publicly available."

The bill (HB 111) is filed for consideration during the 2017 legislative session, which starts in March.

News Service of Florida