A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

FOI In-Brief

By Quill

Florida judge upholds autopsy-photo law

On June 11, a Florida judge upheld a law that seals the autopsy photos of NASCAR racing legend Dale Earnhardt. Volusia County Circuit Judge Joseph Will ruled that the Earnhardt Family Protection Act, passed in the weeks after Earnhardt’s death Feb. 18 in a last-lap crash at the Daytona 500, “was a valid and constitutional exercise of legislative authority.” Will agreed with Earnhardt’s widow that going public with the photos would cause pain to the racing great’s family. The law makes it a third-degree felony for a medical examiner to let anyone other than the victim’s family or law enforcement look at autopsy photos. Violations could bring a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $5,000. The Independent Florida Alligator, a University of Florida student publication, and Websitecity.com, a Web site based in DeLand, both wanted Will to toss out the law to enable their review of the work of Earnhardt’s medical examiner.