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A Tennessee judge has ruled that the manifesto and other writings from the Nashville school shooter will not be made public.

The shooter, Aiden Hale (born Audrey Hale), carried out an attack at Nashville’s Covenant School on March 27, 2023, resulting in six deaths before being killed by police. Following the incident, debates have emerged over the release of Hale’s writings, with survivors and school officials concerned that publicizing them could inspire copycat attacks. In contrast, journalists, gun rights advocates, and some republican lawmakers have called for their release in an effort to be transparent about the shooters motives.

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Davidson County Chancery Court Judge I’Ashea Myles stated in her ruling, “When there is a pending or contemplated criminal investigation, Tennessee courts have determined that unfettered access to every record at any time does not serve to uphold the system of justice that we all depend upon to ensure that the criminal legal system and investigations remain fair and impartial for every involved person. Therefore, the right to unencumbered access to public records was tempered by certain exceptions which serve to keep certain information from disclosure as the risk of harm from disclosure is outweighed by the public’s right to know.”

The decision follows months of litigation among police officials, media, and victims’ families. The families, having been transferred legal ownership of the writings by the shooter’s parents, argued that the documents are private under state law protecting school security records. Myles sided with the families, explaining that “the original writings, journals, art, photos and videos created by Hale are subject to an exception” to the Tennessee Public Records Act. Erin Kinney, mother of one of the victims, expressed relief, stating, “This opinion is an important first step to making sure the killer can’t hurt our babies anymore.”

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The controversy intensified when conservative media figures published portions of Hale’s writings, leading to an investigation called for by Nashville Mayor Freddie O’Connell. The investigation revealed that the writings were leaked via cellphone photos taken by detectives, but it concluded without permanent action as a former detective did not cooperate. A spokesperson for the parents condemned the leak, calling the person responsible “a viper” who “released evidence that was gathered in our most vulnerable moment.”


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