A judge has blocked the release of “graphic” records relating to an investigation into the death of the American comedian Bob Saget.
Saget’s family had filed a lawsuit to stop the sharing of evidence collected from the scene of the comedian’s death last onth.
They said it depicted him “graphically” and should be released only to family – not to the public or media.
Saget, known for his role as Danny Tanner in the US sitcom Full House, was found dead on 9 January in a Florida hotel room at the age of 65.
Circuit Judge Vincent Chiu issued a temporary injunction, agreeing his family would suffer “severe mental pain, anguish, and emotional distress” if the request was not granted.
He said the interim injunction was in the public’s interest as he decides whether the family’s privacy concerns outweigh any claims for the records to be released.
It was believed some media outlets were on the verge of filing “public records requests” to access the material.
A Florida medical examiner ruled Saget’s cause of death was an accidental blow to the head, likely to be from “an unwitnessed fall”, and said there was no evidence of illicit drugs present.
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of Saget’s wife, Kelly Rizzo, and their daughters against the Orange County Sheriff’s office and the medical examiner’s office, and detailed the investigations made by police after Saget’s death.
Legal documents for the family said that during the investigation into his death, records were created that “include photographs, video recordings, audio recordings, statutorily protected autopsy information, and all other statutorily protected information”.
They added: “Some of these records graphically depict Mr Saget, his likeness or features, or parts of him, and were made by defendants.”
Intrusion into family privacy
The lawsuit said the action was necessary to protect the family’s “legitimate privacy interests”.
Under a Florida law passed after the death of NASCAR racing legend Dale Earnhardt two decades ago, records related to autopsies are required to be kept confidential, with only surviving family members or a government agency as part of its official duties allowed to view them.
However, “upon a showing of good cause”, a court can allow the records to be viewed or copied under the supervision of the records’ custodian.
In allowing the records to be viewed, a judge must consider whether it is necessary to evaluate governmental performance and the seriousness of the intrusion into the family’s privacy, among other criteria.
“No legitimate public interest would be served by the release or dissemination of the records to the public,” the lawsuit by Saget’s family said.