What Does State Police Newtown Report Reveal About Lanza's Medical History?

Dec 27, 2013

Lt. Paul Vance, spokesman for the Connecticut State Police, in Newtown on December 14, 2012.
Credit Jeff Cohen / WNPR

Last month, the state prosecutor who investigated the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown released his much-awaited report.

Now, the state police have released a report of their own into the shooting that left 20 children and six educators dead. Officials said they are redacting the state police file, which is several thousand pages long.

"There are laws," said Governor Dannel Malloy earlier this week on WNPR's Where We Live. He said that the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, protects Lanza's medical records from disclosure.

"HIPAA applies both while you're alive and after -- and that's the federal law that protects a person's medical, including psychological, records," the governor said. Asked to clarify, Malloy's office said that which law applies will depend on each redacted document. But it reiterated that HIPAA provides the basic privacy protection.

But that's not what the federal government said. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services said that the federal HIPAA law doesn't apply to health information held by law enforcement. Instead, that information is often protected by state and local laws.

Mitchell Pearlman ran the state's Freedom of Information Commission for 30 years. He said the state's FOI laws can protect medical records from being disclosed. But it could be a different story if they pertain to a matter of legitimate public concern.

"A very strong case could be made," Pearlman said, "that the disclosure of Adam Lanza's medical records would relate to a matter of legitimate public concern." So, as he sees it, state FOI laws may not protect the records from disclosure. But other state laws may require confidentiality.

And which laws are those? That's a question that may be answered now that the state police have released their report.