Lawyers seek release of Columbine gunmen’s parents depositions
DENVER (AP) ” A lawyer for the parents of Columbine victims said the explanations and secret testimony given by the parents of the two teenage gunmen should be made available to a professor studying how to prevent future school shootings.
Last April, U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock ruled that depositions given by the parents of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in a lawsuit would remain sealed for 20 years in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration.
The lawsuit by victims’ families contended the parents knew or should have known about the teens’ attack. It was settled out of court.
A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Monday from attorneys seeking to reverse the ruling that sealed the parents’ statements. A decision isn’t expected for several months.
Eleven states have joined the victims, arguing they have “an interest in learning as much as possible about the individuals who commit such extraordinary acts of violence in order to help prevent future incidents from occurring.”
Since the 1999 rampage at Columbine High School in suburban Denver, there have been at least 42 school shootings across the country and dozens of plots inspired by Harris and Klebold and thwarted by authorities.
Wayne and Katherine Harris have never spoken publicly about their son, while Thom and Susan Klebold have spoken only briefly.
The states and victims’ attorney Barry Arrington want the depositions released to sociology professor Delbert Elliott, director of University of Colorado’s Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence. Elliott said the information is critical to his research into what drove the teens to kill ” and the warning signs that could alert families and schools.
“All we’re looking for is the opportunity for these to be made public,” Brian Rohrbough said after the hearing. Rohrbough’s son Daniel was one of 12 students killed at Columbine.
During the hearing, Judge Carlos F. Lucero questioned Babcock’s decision.
“How do we know? Maybe copycat incidents would be discouraged? Why is 20 years an appropriate time, rather than no time at all?” he asked.
Attorney Michael Montgomery, representing the Harrises, argued that Babcock considered all the questions and arguments before deciding. He noted that the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the settlement agreed that they would take no action to have the depositions opened.
Babcock ordered the documents sealed after a magistrate said the documents should be destroyed.
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