Brief

Appeals court rules that video involving Froedtert killing should be released

By: - July 8, 2022 8:52 am
A Milwaukee County Sheriff vehicle parked below a bridge being crossed my protesters. (Photo by Isiah Holmes)

A Milwaukee County Sheriff vehicle parked below a bridge being crossed my protesters. (Photo by Isiah Holmes)

The Court of Appeals has ruled that surveillance video of a fatal shooting at Froedtert Hospital can’t be blocked from release by the hospital. The shooting occurred in January 2019 in the hospital’s parking garage. Kenneth Freeman was charged with first-degree intentional homicide after killing a nurse, but was found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. As a result, Freeman was committed to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services for life.

The Court of Appeals case stems from an open records request filed by the Journal Sentinel for video of Freeman wandering around the garage for over two hours. The requested video did not depict the attack or the victim. After the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office (MSCO) denied the request because it concerned an ongoing investigation, the Journal Sentinel followed up. The request was again denied, with the MCSO citing “the public interest in treating [the victim’s] surviving loved ones with respect for their privacy and dignity,” which it argued outweighed any legitimate public interest in the release.

As the Journal Sentinel and MCSO battled over the video, Froedtert filed a motion to intervene. The motion was granted, but eventually the hospital’s  motions to quash the request were denied. Froedtert appealed the decision, while MCSO did not. Froedtert argued that it’s not subject to open records laws since it’s a private entity. The Journal Sentinel, however, countered that open records laws prohibited the hospital from keeping the footage from the public. In discussion, the Court of Appeals noted, “It is undisputed that the video constitutes a record that is kept by a public authority, MCSO.” It added that “privately created materials, such as the video in this case, are not exempt from disclosure.”

Next the Court found that under the statutes, Froedtert is not a “record subject.” That’s defined as “an individual about whom personally identifiable information is contained in a record.” As an employer, the hospital does not meet that definition. “Accordingly,” the Court of Appeals reasoned, “we conclude that Froedtert may not block MCSO from releasing the requested video footage, and affirm the circuit court’s order.”

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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets. He was also featured in the 2018 documentary The Chase Key, and was the recipient of the Sierra Club Great Waters Group 2021 Environmental Hero of the Year award. The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council also awarded Holmes its 2021-2022 Media Openness Award for using the open records laws for investigative journalism. Holmes was also a finalist in the 2021 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards alongside the rest of the Wisconsin Examiner's staff. The Silver, or second place, award for Best Online Coverage of News was awarded to Holmes and his colleague Henry Redman for an investigative series into how police responded to the civil unrest and protests in Kenosha during 2020. Holmes was also awarded the Press Club's Silver (second-place) award for Public Service Journalism for articles focusing on police surveillance in Wisconsin.

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