Va. bill aims to block public access to past police cases

A bill going through Virginia’s General Assembly aims to limit who can see the documents from past police cases.

The legislation is getting strong pushback from organizations that say access to the investigations — which are funded by taxpayers — also hold the police accountable.

Legislation headed to a Senate hearing would prevent anyone but the victim of a crime — or their attorney or next of kin — from getting access to documents from a past police investigation.

The bill introduced by Del. Rob Bell (R-Albemarle) passed the House earlier this month, and is opposed by a number of government-transparency advocates, including the Virginia Coalition for Open Government. Its executive director, Megan Rhyne, argues against giving police and prosecutors the discretion over what is kept from the public.

The parents of Hannah Graham, who was murdered in 2014, are just one family tied to a high-profile murder who support Bell’s bill, as reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Susan Graham, Hannah’s mother, testified in Richmond at a House subcommittee hearing on the bill. Graham stated that she and her family are fearful that access to documents in her daughter’s murder investigation will give anyone the opportunity to retraumatize them.

The legislation passed the House earlier this month 54-45.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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