Judge orders release of Newtown 911 calls

Dylan Stableford
Yahoo News
Mourners grieve at one of the makeshift memorials for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. On Friday, a gunman allegedly killed his mother at their home and then opened fire inside the school, killing 26 people, including 20 children. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
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A day after a Connecticut state's attorney released a final report on the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, a judge ruled the 911 tapes from the shootings be released, the Hartford Courant reports.

Superior Court Judge Eliot Prescott ordered the release of recordings of the phone calls that Newtown, Conn., police received from the school on Dec. 14, 2012, when 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults before killing himself.

The 911 tapes are to be released on or before Dec. 4 at 2 p.m., Prescott said.

Stephen Sedensky III, the state's attorney, fought against the release, arguing the tapes — which were "being made on the murder of children as it occurs" — are too gruesome for residents to bear.

"If the public never hears those cries for help during this process, they won't be harmed," Sedensky said earlier this month at an appeal hearing.

Nathan C. Zezula, attorney for the Newtown Police Department, said the department wanted to keep the tapes away from "voyeuristic interests."

The Associated Press had requested the 911 tapes be released under the Freedom of Information Act so the public can judge the police response to the killings.

"Every time someone calls 911, there is a belief that there is a crime," Victor Perpetua, the lawyer for the state's Freedom of Information Commission, said at the hearing. "That is part of the record. But to me the more important part of the record was what response did that person get? How was that information taken? What was the time period?

"I don't mean to say anything wrong happened," he continued. "I don't know one way or the other. At a certain point people start to ask, 'What is there to hide?' I'm saying the longer it's delayed, the more questions that are raised and that delays in providing access to this kind of record increases public insecurity about their police departments."

Earlier this month, Prescott delayed a ruling on the appeal until Nov. 25. On Monday, he delayed the decision again so he could listen to the tapes.

"I can't sit here, counselor, and conduct a poll and ask the world how many people want to hear these 911 tapes because they'll find it sickeningly entertaining, how many of them want to hear them for totally prurient interests or how many have legitimate concerns as citizens about knowing how its government is functioning," Prescott said. "The issue is this ultimately is a public policy choice as made by the legislature in balancing all of the interests — of crime victims, of law enforcement — and not getting in the way of law enforcement doing their sworn duty and the right of the public to know. And it is a delicate balance."

On Monday, Sedensky released a summary of the state's nearly yearlong investigation into massacre, shedding no new light on Lanza's motive. Lanza shot and killed his mother in the Newtown home they shared before his rampage at the school.

"The obvious question that remains is: 'Why did the shooter murder twenty-seven people, including twenty children?'" the report states. "Unfortunately, that question may never be answered conclusively."

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