Public access to autopsy and death-scene photographs: Relational privacy, public records and avoidable collisions

Samuel Terilli, Sigman L. Splichal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


During the 2001 Daytona 500 NASCAR race, Dale Earnhardt crashed and died. The Orlando Sentinel sought autopsy photographs-public records under Florida law. Legal battles followed. The Florida Legislature passed restrictive legislation to protect the family from the anguish of having the photographs published. This article examines precedent for relational or derivative privacy claims, including the opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States in National Archives and Records Administration v. Favish, and focuses on the Earnhardt case and other recent Florida examples of the popular outrage helping to fuel relational privacy claims. The article concludes the Earnhardt state legislation and Favish federal FOIA decision are overbroad, though understandable responses; and, it recommends that access advocates consider supporting legislation allowing inspection, but not copying, of records likely to provoke outrage if released and distributed on the Internet or otherwise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-348
Number of pages36
JournalCommunication Law and Policy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2005


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law

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