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Sheriff Gualtieri says law enforcement officers identity shouldn't be hidden by Marcy's Law

The Pinellas County Sheriff says an officer who shoots and kills a person isn't a 'victim,' and their identity shouldn't be kept shrouded 'in secrecy.'
Credit: AP
(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla — Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is backing a challenge to an appeals court ruling regarding Florida's Marcy's Law. 

The sheriff filed an amicus brief Wednesday in support of a challenge to an appeals court ruling that said the 2018 constitutional amendment could apply to two Tallahassee police officers, according to the Tampa Bay Times

The Times, which first reported the story, says the sheriff and the Miami Civilian Investigative Panel are both in support of the city of Tallahassee's challenge.

The Florida Supreme Court is now being asked to take up the constitutional dispute over whether Marsy's Law, which protects the identities of those victimized by crime, also shields the names of working police officers. 

The ask comes after an appeals court unanimously ruled it did. 

As the Tallahassee Democrat reports, the court battle ties back to May 27, 2020, when a Tallahassee police officer shot and killed Tony McDade, a Black transgender man. According to the paper, it happened just moments after investigators say McDade fatally stabbed the son of a next-door neighbor.

The city of Tallahassee initially planned to release the name of the officer – and the name of a different officer in a separate case. However, the Florida Police Benevolent Association didn't like that plan. The organization sued and argued the officers were impacted by aggravated assaults and, thus, were entitled to privacy protections under the 2018 voter-backed constitutional amendment that is more commonly known as Marsy's Law.

The three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal agreed with the police union, reversing a July circuit court ruling by previous Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson who ordered the city to release the names of the officers in the interest of both holding government accountable and protecting victims' rights, according to WFSU.

The city of Tallahassee was not happy with the appeals court ruling and has asked the state's highest court to weigh in. The city has now filed a notice, the first step in the Florida Supreme Court process.

Now, Sheriff Gualtieri is siding with the city of Tallahassee in its case. 

According to the amicus brief, Gualtieri says a law enforcement officer who shoots and kills a person is not a "victim" of the shooting and "cannot invoke Marsy's Law to shroud his shooting in secrecy." 

In the brief, the sheriff says a "victim" is someone harmed by a crime or attempted crime. The sheriff says Florida's constitution "treats police officers the same as anyone else claiming self-defense." 

"That a use of force is justified does not shield the identity of the person using it from public view," the brief says. "Here, the appeals court misconstrued the plain text of Marsy's Law by expanding it to suppress the identity of a police officer who shot and killed another person."

According to the Times, the Florida Supreme Court has not stated whether it will take up the case. 

Read Sheriff Gualtieri's full amicus brief here.

RELATED: Constitutional battle over policing and Marsy's Law heads to Florida Supreme Court

RELATED: Tallahassee asks Florida Supreme Court to review ruling that said police names were shielded by Marsy's Law

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