Davidson County Chancellor Russell T. Perkins ruled Wednesday that some records in the police file in the Vanderbilt rape case are subject to the Tennessee Public Records Act, including text messages and emails recovered from witnesses or criminal defendants.
The ruling rejected an adoption of a law enforcement privilege for pending criminal cases, and said in a footnote that “The Court concludes these text messages are not witness statements that can be shielded from disclosure. Instead, these text messages are memorializations of conduct related to the alleged crime and the alleged cover up.”
“Taking a case-by-case view as a trial court, the Court concludes that exempting all the records from review under Tenn. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(2) would be tantamount to adopting a law enforcement privilege for pending criminal cases that may not necessarily be called for by the language of Tenn. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(2). The Court concludes that records submitted to the Metropolitan Police Department that were not developed internally and that do not constitute statements or other documents reflecting the reconstructive and investigative efforts of the Metropolitan Police Department are outside the expansive reach of Tenn. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(2). Based on the Court’s review of the record and the in camera material, Plaintiffs are entitled to the text messages, minus any photographic or videographic images. These text messages existed contemporaneously or close in time to when the alleged assault occurred and do not reflect the mental impressions or investigative tactics of the Metropolitan Police Department.”
Read the full ruling here.