Now that the full report on the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School finally is exposed to the light of day, interested parties -- including the parents of the school children murdered by Adam Lanza, Connecticut’s General Assembly, which passed an omnibus gun bill without having at its disposal data that might have been shared with legislators, in camera if necessary, disinterested parties who have waited patiently for the release of authorized data before committing themselves to reasonable conclusions concerning measures that should be taken to prevent future Sandy Hooks, and many others touched by the murders of so many innocent children – will be able to turn a page on an event that caught the attention of Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, the state’s General Assembly, President of the United States Barack Obama, both houses of the U.S. Congress and even international publications.
A little more than a month ago, after having twice postponed a final release of his report on the Sandy Hook murders, Danbury State Attorney Stephen Sedensky, yielding to public pressure brought to bear by some in Connecticut’s media and a belatedly impatient Governor Dannel Malloy, released a summary of his final criminal report.
It was a little unusual to release a summary of a report that, according to Mr. Sedensky, was still in the process of being completed. Summaries usually precede the publication of reports as a part of a final report. But in this case, Mr. Sedensky thought it advisable, for reasons known only to him, to put the cart before the horse. Some commentators speculated that the premature release of the summary in advance of the final criminal report offered Mr. Sedensky an opportunity to shape commentary in advance of the final report.
Following publication of the summary report, Mr. Sedensky had disassembled the barricades that till then prevented public scrutiny of one of the most horrific crimes in Connecticut history. The chief obstacle to public scrutiny was Mr. Sedensky’s insistence that release of a final criminal report must await the completion of “an ongoing investigation.” This talismanic phrase is used whenever the police authority does not wish to release information; the pallid excuse often suggests that the premature release of information may interfere with a contemplated prosecution. In his preliminary report, Mr. Sedensky asserted that no such prosecution was in the offing. It would be interesting to know precisely when, in the course of his investigation, Mr. Sedensky became aware that the possibility of future prosecution was not an option, or why he refused to release information early on that could not compromise his investigation.
“Foot dragging” on the part of Connecticut’s State Police, which co-ordinates its marching orders to the tune piped by Mr. Sedensky, was “unnecessarily impeding the progress of the governor's Sandy Hook Advisory Commission,” according to an editorial in a state-wide newspaper.
Mr. Malloy’s Sandy Hook Advisory Committee, the paper noted, faced “a March deadline to come up with recommendations in response to the massacre at the Newtown elementary school over a year ago. To do that, the commission needs to know more about the killer. The state police should stop stalling and immediately release its full report on the crime — a report said to amount to thousands of pages.” Somewhat frustratingly, the paper asked, “Why it has taken so long to release the report is beyond rational explanation.”
Mr. Sedensky was not insensible to these importunities and ultimately, just before the first year anniversary of the crime and seven months after the General Assembly had passed a bill restricting gun use in Connecticut, the keeper of the Sandy Hook secrets released his twice delayed report.
Interestingly, the commission assembled by Mr. Malloy to issue recommendations “with particular attention paid to school safety, mental health and gun violence prevention,’ refused point blank to issue a report in the absence of data the commission needed to offer recommendations. This commission patiently waited upon Mr. Sedensky’s final report, and even insisted on reviewing shooter Adam Lana’s medical records before it could issue its own report. In promulgating its gun restriction bill, neither Mr. Malloy nor the Democratic leaders who steer business in the legislature insisted on having on hand such data in Mr. Sedensky’s possession as might have led to a different or more effective legislative result.
Perhaps what is needed at this point is a legislative commission assembled to investigate the nature of the investigation so that the General Assembly, charged with writing laws, may have at its disposal all data necessary to perform in a timely manner its constitutionally prescribed responsibilities.