Bill inspired by NCFL tragedy would limit public access to certain autopsy records

Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 11:51 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - State Representative Chuck Clemons presented HB 1513, also known as the Rex and Brody Reinhart Act, today.

This bill follows a murder suicide last May.

RELATED STORY: Developing: Gainesville father and sons presumed dead in suspected murder/suicide in Dixie County

“These were elementary and middle school young men who’s love was playing baseball and they, through no fault of their own, were viciously murdered by domestic violence,” said Clemons, the sponsor of this bill.

An autopsy report showed Gainesville brothers Rex and Brody Reinhart were shot by their father Paul Reinhart, before he killed himself at the family’s vacation home in Dixie County.

RELATED STORY: Autopsy report shows Rex and Brody Reinhart were shot by father

“Kids that were Rex and Brody’s friends were sitting at kitchen tables watching it on the news seeing horrific details,” said Minde Reinhart, the mother of the victims.

This tragedy inspired some lawmakers and family members to want change what information can be public.

“I did not want to know any of the details of their death. I knew they died of gun shot wounds and that was the extent that I wanted to know,” said Reinhart.

HB 1513 would prevent autopsy results of children killed in domestic violence cases from being released to the public.

Reinhart said because these results were made public, it set her and many loved ones back in the healing process.

“I think it’s a critical step in protecting children. Not only the children that died from violence but also the children who could see those pictures,” said Sherry Kitchens, President and CEO of Child Advocacy Center.

While Florida is known for its open public record laws, one expert said that reputation may change.

“We keep chipping away at them piece by piece so eventually, will our reputation of being a very pro open access state be eroded?” asked Clay Calvert, UF law professor and Director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project.

Calvert said this bill does not allow for an exception, something Florida’s public records law usually includes.

“So if a member of news media says ‘hey there is good cause, we really need this information because it will serve this purpose’ but there is no such a carve out for this legislation.”

He said despite the difficult balancing act, “I think the public does have a right to know about that regardless of how graphic the details in the autopsy report, and that’s what we’re talking about here autopsy reports might be.”

The bill passed in the Senate unanimously.

It has two more committee stops in the House of Representatives before it reaches the floor of the house.

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