Attorney: Ownership of Nashville shooter’s writing to go students’ parents

Jun 8, 2023, 1:18 PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ownership of the writings of a shooter who killed six people at a Nashville school earlier this year will be transferred to the families of students at the school, an attorney representing the shooter’s parents announced Thursday.

The development is the latest twist in the increasingly complex legal battle over the release of Audrey Hale’s writings and other documents in the police investigation. Supporters of the parents hope that the transfer of ownership will strengthen the families’ argument that they have standing to intervene and stop the release of Hale’s writings.

Hale, then 28, opened fire at the school on March 27, before being shot to death by officers. Hale was a former student at the school and it is thought that Hale’s writings might reveal a motive for the attack.

Late last month, Chancery Court Judge I’Ashea Myles ruled that the Covenant School parents have a right to intervene against the groups seeking the release of the public records.

Those seeking the release include journalists, a state senator, a law enforcement nonprofit and a gun-rights organization — all who have had their requests to publicize the documents rebuffed by Nashville police, who say the records are part of an active investigation. The Associated Press has also requested a copy of the records.

Separately, along with Covenant parents, the Covenant School and Covenant Presbyterian Church have been allowed to intervene in the case after their lawyers said their primary concern is preventing the release of any information of their buildings that houses the school that could jeopardize security, such as detailed drawings of their facilities.

Yet shortly after Myles approved allowing the parents to intervene, the plaintiffs seeking the records not only appealed her decision but also asked her to hit pause on the case proceedings until the appeals process had gone through.

Myles said Thursday that she’ll make that decision later that day, stressing that she had not yet made up her mind on the appeals decision or on whether to release the writings.

“Either way, someone is going to appeal my ruling,” she said, which prompted laughs.

Attorney David Raybin, who is representing Hale’s parents, surprised the courtroom when he informed the judge that he will help transfer ownership of the writings to Covenant parents intervening in the case by the end of the week. Ownership had been under Hale’s parents.

The Metro Nashville Police Department is still in charge of the release of the documents.

More than 60 Tennessee House Republicans have called for the release of Hale’s writings, but only GOP Sen. Todd Gardenhire has filed suit in a joint petition with The Tennessean newspaper.

The lawmakers have said the shooter’s writings could provide valuable insights as they prepare for a special session called by Gov. Bill Lee, who is pushing to remove firearms from people judged dangerous to themselves or others. Lawmakers declined to take up Lee’s proposal during the legislative session that ended last month but are scheduled to return to the issue on Aug. 21 during a special legislative session.

Police have said Hale had been planning the massacre for months. Hale fired 152 rounds during the attack before being killed by police. Hale was under a doctor’s care for an undisclosed “emotional disorder,” police said. However, authorities haven’t disclosed a link between that care and the March 27 shooting.

Killed in the attack were Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney, all 9 years old. The three adults killed were Katherine Koonce, 60, the head of the school, and custodian Mike Hill and substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, who were 61.

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Attorney: Ownership of Nashville shooter’s writing to go students’ parents