STATE ATTORNEY'S OFFICE OF THE SEVENTEENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT and SCHOOL BOARD OF BROWARD COUNTY, Appellants,
CABLE NEWS NETWORK, INC., MIAMI HERALD MEDIA COMPANY, SUN-SENTINEL COMPANY, LLC, ABC, INC., THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, THE BRADENTON HERALD, THE FIRST AMENDMENT FOUNDATION, FLORIDA PRESS ASSOCIATION, GANNETT COMPANY, INC., LOS ANGELES TIMES COMMUNICATIONS LLC, THE NEW YORK TIMES COMPANY, ORLANDO SENTINEL COMMUNICATIONS COMPANY, LLC, BROWARD COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, and SCOTT ISRAEL, in his official capacity as Broward County Sheriff, Appellees.
Consolidated appeals from the Circuit Court for the
Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County; Jeffrey R.
Levenson, Judge; L.T. Case No. CACE 18-004429 (09).
Michael J. Satz, State Attorney, and Joel Silvershein,
Assistant State Attorney, Fort Lauderdale, for appellant,
State Attorney's Office of the Seventeenth Judicial
K. Pettis and Debra Potter Klauber of Haliczer, Pettis &
Schwamm, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, for appellant, School Board
of Broward County.
J. McElroy, James J. McGuire, and Jon M. Philipson of Thomas
& LoCicero, PL, Fort Lauderdale, for appellees, Cable
News Network, Inc.; Miami Herald Media Company; and
Sun-Sentinel Company, LLC, ABC, Inc.; The Associated Press;
The Bradenton Herald; the First Amendment Foundation; the
Florida Press Association; Gannett Co., Inc.; Los Angeles
Times Communications LLC; The New York Times Company; and
Orlando Sentinel Communications Company, LLC.
affirm the order of the circuit court which directed the
disclosure of video footage as public records over the
objections of the School Board of Broward County and the
State Attorney of the 17th Judicial Circuit.
February 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz, a former student, entered
the grounds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in
Broward County. He walked into Building 12, containing
several classrooms, and allegedly shot and killed seventeen
people, including students and staff members. The timeline
for the shooting is as follows:
p.m. Cruz is dropped off near the school
p.m. Cruz enters Building 12 and begins firing rifle
p.m. A fire alarm is set off
p.m. Cruz discards his weapon and exits out the west
side of the building
70 surveillance cameras are installed at Douglas. The
exterior cameras are mounted in plain sight and are
"completely visible" to a person looking for them.
Without seeing the actual footage from the camera, one would
• Whether the camera is on or off;
• Whether the camera is working;
• How wide the angle is;
• Where the camera is pointing;
• Whether the camera operates at night; or
• How many frames per second the camera is recording.
February 15, the Broward County Sheriff's Office
("BSO") subpoenaed all of Douglas's video
surveillance footage. On February 16, the BSO executed a
search warrant and seized the School Board's computers
which housed the footage.
weeks after the shooting, several media outlets petitioned
for access to video recordings captured by Douglas's
Media's petition was filed pursuant to Article I, Section
24 of the Florida Constitution and Chapter 119, Florida
Statutes, the "Public Records Act." The respondents
were the BSO, Scott Israel (BSO Sheriff), the School Board of
Broward County, and Robert Runcie (Superintendent of
Media's petition averred "extreme public
interest" in "the response of law enforcement
officers during the shooting and immediately
thereafter." The petition mentioned school resource
officer, Scot Peterson, by name. The petition was
necessitated because the BSO refused to release the footage.
State Attorney's Office moved to intervene as the
authority prosecuting Cruz. The State Attorney argued that
the "items sought constitute criminal investigative
information" that is exempt from disclosure under the
Public Records Act.
responded to the petition, raising the same exemption, and
other objections not relevant to this appeal. The School
Board's response claimed that the footage was exempt from
disclosure under Florida Statute section 119.071(3)(a),
Florida Statutes - the "security system plan
the hearing, the Media filed two DVDs in support of the
petition. The first was a video of a press conference
conducted by the BSO. In the press conference, Sheriff Scott
Israel discusses the Douglas surveillance videos and informs
the media that Officer Peterson was suspended based on his
failure to enter Building 12 and engage the shooter.
second DVD was an interview with a Douglas student who
described seeing Officer Peterson during the shooting.
According to the student, Officer Peterson stood in a
stairwell in an adjacent building, talking on his radio, with
his gun pointed at Building 12.
Media also filed several exhibits including its public
records request, other public records, and several articles
about the shooting. The articles discussed Officer
Peterson's actions as well as reports that other deputies
remained outside during the shooting taking cover behind
their vehicles. One article notes BSO policy which is that
"if real time intelligence exists the sole deputy or
team of deputies may enter the area and/or structure to
circuit judge conducted an evidentiary hearing on March 8.
The evidentiary portion of the hearing included testimony
from the BSO's captain of criminal investigations. The
captain testified that Cruz is the subject of an active
criminal investigation and that the videotapes are part of
the criminal investigative information file.
other relevant testimony about Douglas's surveillance
system came from a BSO officer and an assistant principal.
This testimony is discussed in more detail below.
close of the hearing, the judge announced that he would be
doing an in camera review of the footage, which had
been redacted to obscure the faces of students and unknown
witnesses. Ultimately, the court issued its order requiring
the BSO to release the footage (the "first order").
None of the parties appealed the first order, and the BSO
provided the specified footage to the Media.
before the video was released, the BSO published a detailed
timeline of events culled from multiple sources, including
Douglas surveillance videos. The timeline revealed that there
are 70 surveillance cameras at Douglas and that the cameras
are motion-activated. The published timeline stated:
The 45 acre campus is equipped to record 70 different camera
angles. Most of these views provide coverage of student
buildings, walkways and hallways. Building 12 was covered by
thirteen interior cameras. School video time stamps are not
exactly synchronized with BSO dispatch records. Cameras are
also motion activated leaving gaps in coverage.
reviewing the BSO's newly-released timeline and the
footage released March 15, the Media filed a Motion for
Further Relief. The Media argued that the footage released
was incomplete, edited, and not entirely responsive. The
Media asked for "full disclosure" showing the law
enforcement response so the public could "evaluate and
determine whether more could have, or should have, been
School Board opposed releasing additional footage. It
contended that the extensive video footage sought by the
Media revealed much more than the "minimal" footage
originally produced. It further argued that the Media had not
stated any "good cause" for the additional footage
because the additional footage sought captured officers'
actions after Cruz had dropped his weapon and exited
Media's motion for further relief spurred three hearings
and the appealed order.
first hearing was a case management conference held on March
23. The Media insisted that it was not seeking any footage of
victims - that it was seeking only footage from the exterior
cameras showing the law enforcement response. The circuit
court clarified that "anyone on the video, other than
law enforcement," was going to be pixelated. The BSO did
not object to producing additional footage. The court ordered
the Media to narrow its request.
Media then filed its "Amended and Supplemental Motion
for Further Relief." The Media specified that it was not
seeking any video:
(a) depicting the victims of the shooting,
(b) showing the interior of any school ...