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h_jud_2018a_2018-05-03t14:37:58z1 Hearing Summary




PUBLIC
BILL SUMMARY For SB18-223

HOUSE COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY
Date May 3, 2018      
Location HCR 0112



SB18-223 - Amended, referred to the Committee of the Whole


03:17:24 PM  
The committee recessed.
03:18:32 PM  

The committee returned to order. Representatives Carver and Gray, prime sponsor, presented Senate Bill 18-223, concerning the circumstances under which an autopsy report prepared in connection with the death of a minor may be released to certain parties.  Representative Gray explained the effect of the bill and discussed its need. Representative Carver provided additional input on the bill.

03:25:17 PM  

Discussion ensued regarding amendments L.007 (Attachment C) and L.010 (Attachment D).

03:26:01 PM  

Dr. Bob Bux, representing El Paso County and the Colorado Coroners Association, testified in support of SB 18-223. Dr. Bux discussed the process of records sealing for minor autopsies, and the effect of crimes and suicides undertaken by minors on the community. Mr. Tim Lopez, representing himself, testified in support of the bill. Mr. Lopez recounted the death of a family member, the access of the autopsy reports by the media, and the resulting impact on his family.  He questioned the need for the news media to access this information.  Dr. Bux responded to questions regarding the number of requests for access to child autopsies he receives on an annual basis, and the costs associated with these requests. Dr. Bux responded to questions regarding the potential impact of the bill on the reporting of youth suicides, and the potential for broadening the scope of the bill to other age groups. Discussion ensued regarding the impact of the bill on organ donation, and other states that have adopted legislation similar to SB 18-223. Discussion followed regarding current laws that impact the release of autopsies.

03:46:06 PM  
Ms. Diana May, representing the El Paso County Attorney's Office and Coroner's Office, testified in support of the bill. Ms. May explained the purpose of protecting the identity of juveniles in certain government documents, and discussed the benefits of SB 18-223. Ms. May responded to questions regarding the number of juvenile autopsy requests received by El Paso County. Discussion ensued regarding laws in place in other states similar to SB 18-223. Ms. May and Representative Gray responded to questions regarding the standard for discovery under the bill.
04:01:36 PM  

Mr. Jeff Roberts, representing the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, testified in opposition to the bill. Mr. Roberts discussed the need to allow scrutiny of public documents, and noted some cases where accessing juvenile autopsies revealed information about their deaths. He discussed the public benefit of allowing this access. Ms. Nicole Vap, representing 9News, testified in opposition to the bill. Ms. Vap discussed some investigative reporting in which she participated that revealed autopsies showing crimes perpetrated against youth. She explained how the bill would keep knowledge of crimes out of the public's eye. Mr. Christopher Nicholson, representing himself, testified in opposition to the bill. Mr. Nicholson recounted the loss of a friend, and discussed the benefits of media reporting the deaths of minors that involve crimes. Mr. Roberts responded to questions regarding efforts on the part of the Colorado Press Association to offer amendments to the bill. Ms. Vap responded to questions regarding access to autopsies by non-credentialed media, and the failure of agencies to reveal crimes stemming from child abuse.

04:16:27 PM  
Mr. Roberts responded to questions regarding the release of autopsy reports ahead of the conclusion of criminal cases. Discussion ensued regarding the difference between data and individual autopsy reports, and the effect of amendment L.010. Discussion followed regarding balancing the right of the public to know with shielding families from anguish.
04:31:53 PM  

Mr. Randy Gorton, representing Kit Carson County and the Colorado County Coroners Association, testified in support of the bill. He explained how the bill will help prevent "copy cat" events, and will provide privacy for families. Mr. Randy Keller, representing Fremont County and the Colorado County Coroners Association, testified in support of SB 18-223. He discussed the interest of minors and their families that are served by the bill, and the anguish that families experience when juvenile autopsies are made public. Ms. Stephanie Villafuerte, Child Protection Ombudsman, testified on the bill from a neutral perspective if it is amended. She expressed concerns about child fatalities, and spoke in support of the amendments. Ms. Villafuerte responded to questions regarding whether media investigations would be considered research for the purposes of amendment L.010. Discussion ensued regarding this amendment.

05:00:50 PM  
Mr. Larry Ryckman, representing the Denver Post, testified in opposition to the bill. Mr. Ryckman discussed the importance of transparency, and addressed claims made during earlier conversation. Mr. Kevin Vaughan, representing 9News, testified in opposition to SB 18-223. Mr. Vaughan discussed the importance of transparency on the part of government, and addressed issues raised during earlier conversation. Discussion ensued regarding death as a matter of public record.
05:14:38 PM  
Ms. Sue Dunn, representing Donor Alliance, testified in support of the bill. Ms. Dunn discussed amendments placed on the bill in the Senate, and the benefits of organ donation. Ms. Susan Payne, representing the Safe2Tell Program, testified in support of the bill. Ms. Payne explained how the bill may help to prevent youth suicide. Ms. Emma Hall, representing Boulder County, testified in support of SB 18-223. Ms. Hall explained what goes into an autopsy report, and noted some organizations that support the bill. Mr. Robert Glassmire, representing Garfield County and the Colorado County Coroners Association, testified in support of the bill. Discussion ensued regarding the chain of custody of autopsy-related documents. Mr. Glassmire discussed information that is available to the public pertaining to deaths, and media interest in the deaths of minors. Ms. Dunn responded to questions regarding how the Donor Alliance currently obtains autopsy documents.
05:30:23 PM  

Discussion ensued regarding amendment L.011 (Attachment E).



05:38:15 PM
Motion Adopt amendment L.011
Moved Salazar
Seconded Herod
Benavidez Yes
Carver Yes
Herod Yes
Lundeen Yes
Melton Yes
Roberts Yes
Weissman Yes
Willett No
Wist Yes
Salazar Yes
Lee Yes
YES: 10   NO: 1   EXC: 0   ABS:  0   FINAL ACTION:  PASS


05:40:09 PM
Motion Adopt amendment L.007
Moved Carver
Seconded Lundeen
Benavidez
Carver
Herod
Lundeen
Melton
Roberts
Weissman
Willett
Wist
Salazar
Lee
YES: 0   NO: 0   EXC: 0   ABS:  0   FINAL ACTION:  Pass Without Objection
05:40:43 PM  
Various committee members provided their positions on SB 18-223. The co-prime sponsors provided closing remarks in support of the bill.


05:46:52 PM
Motion Refer Senate Bill 18-223, as amended, to the Committee of the Whole.
Moved Carver
Seconded Wist
Benavidez Yes
Carver Yes
Herod No
Lundeen Yes
Melton Yes
Roberts Yes
Weissman Yes
Willett No
Wist Yes
Salazar No
Lee Yes
Final YES: 8   NO: 3   EXC: 0   ABS:  0   FINAL ACTION:  PASS