Published January 13, 2015
Reporters have already seen and written about the Columbine (search) "basement tapes" of killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold showing off their arsenal and eagerly talking about their plan to attack their high school.
But the gunmen's parents are fighting a newspaper's request for public release of the videos, audio recordings and writings Harris and Klebold made in the months before they killed 12 students and a teacher in April 1999.
The Colorado Supreme Court was scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday from The Denver Post, the parents and the Jefferson County sheriff's office, which also opposes the release.
A Jefferson County district judge has ruled that the documents, including a diary kept by Harris' father, should not be made public. But the state Court of Appeals last year ruled that the tapes and writings are public records and ordered the judge to consider whether their release would be contrary to the public interest.
The boys' parents and the sheriff's office appealed to the state's highest court.
At the heart of the dispute is a question that District Judge Brooke Jackson (search) said has never been considered by Colorado's courts: Does private property seized under a search warrant become public record?
Attorneys for the Klebolds and Harrises argue that it does not. They say releasing private property seized under a search warrant would set a dangerous precedent that threatens the privacy rights of all Colorado residents and businesses.
Assistant Jefferson County Attorney Lily Oeffler (search) agreed, writing in a court filing: "Under this ruling, one's most private and intimate records would now be fair game for the press, a disgruntled business associate, an ex-wife or anyone to leaf through simply because a search warrant was granted."
However, Denver Post attorney Steven Zansberg argues the tapes and writings are public records because they were used in the sheriff's investigation and remain in the department's custody.
Zansberg also said in court papers that the sheriff's office and the boys' parents have overstated the potential consequences of releasing the information.
Attorneys for both sets of parents have said they feared that public release of the tapes and some of their sons' writings could prompt copycat attacks and glorify the nation's worst school shooting.
Gregg Kay (search), an attorney for the Klebolds, said the fact that reporters were allowed to view the videotapes in late 1999 had no bearing on the families' arguments.
"It was shown without our permission by the sheriff, who we immediately put on notice to stop doing that and he did," Kay said.
The Colorado District Attorneys Council has also filed a brief in support of the parents saying public disclosure of private records could discourage people from reporting suspicions of criminal activity, causing "substantial problems" for law enforcement.