Covenant school parents argue against Audrey Hale manifesto release at tense court hearing

Gun Rights

Lawyers representing parents at the Nashville Covenant school where shooter Audrey Hale killed six people in March argued in court against releasing her manifesto publicly on Monday — but received significant pushback from free speech lawyers.

Attorney Eric Osborne, who says he’s representing 100 of the 112 families at the Christian elementary school, told the court on Monday parents fear the killers’ manifesto could lead to another massacre.

“Writings like this tend to inspire additional school shootings,” Osborne said, adding that the safety of the school and others like it were at the forefront of the families’ concerns.

The lawyer argued parents should be allowed to testify against the public’s request to publish Hale’s writings, noting some would like to do so in-person, while others should be allowed to submit their opinions anonymously.

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However, attorney Robb Harvey, representing The Tennessean media outlet — one of the entities suing the Metro Nashville Police Department to publish the manifesto — slammed their request as unprecedented.

Harvey argued because the parents were not actually the victims of the crime, which claimed the lives of three students and three staff members, they do not have the right to intervene.


Audrey Hale killed six people, including three children, in a rampage at the Covenant school.
Audrey Hale killed six people, including three children, in a rampage at the Covenant school.
Linkedin/Audrey Hale

The Tennessee Chancery Court heard arguments on letting parents testify against publishing Audrey Hale's manifesto.
The Tennessee Chancery Court heard arguments on letting parents testify against publishing Audrey Hale’s manifesto.

“What happened that day, it’s a tragedy, but it doesn’t mean that everyone at the school is a victim,” Harvey said.

Fellow attorney Doug Pierce, representing the National Police Association, echoed Harvey’s complaint and suggested parents must know what is contained in Hale’s writings in order for them to want them blocked.

Osborne condemned that notion and reiterated his clients don’t know the contents of the manifesto.


Attorney Eric Osborne is representing 100 of the 112 families at the Christian elementary school.
Attorney Eric Osborne is representing 100 of the 112 families at the Christian elementary school.

Police are in possession of many of Hale's writings before the shooter was killed by responding officers.
Police are in possession of many of Hale’s writings before the shooter was killed by responding officers.
Metropolitan Nashville Police De/AFP via Getty Images

Along with the parents’ opposition, representatives for the Covenant School and church also argued they should be allowed to weigh in on the issue.

The school and church claimed if Hale’s writings contain years of planning and condemnation against them, then they have a right to voice their opinion and block anything that could be dangerous to the wellbeing of students and faculty.

The city’s attorney, Lora Barkenbus Fox, said during Monday’s hearing the police are in possession of a “voluminous” amount of files regarding Hale’s manifesto, the majority of which she argued should not be published.


Katy Dieckhaus, mother of Covenant School shooting victim Evelyn Dieckhaus, cried while  attending a state Senate hearing last month.
Katy Dieckhaus, mother of Covenant School shooting victim Evelyn Dieckhaus, cried while attending a state Senate hearing last month.
AP

The writings of Hale, a transgender former student at the Covenant school, have become a focal point since the March 27 mass shooting, as the FBI has sought to keep them under wraps — prompting two lawsuits to compel their release.

The suits were filed separately by Tennessee Firearms Association Inc. alongside former Tennessee-area Sheriff James Hammond and the National Rifle Association and by private investigator Clara Brewer.

Judicial District Chancery Court Judge I’Ashea Myles said she will make a decision on the parents’, school and church’s motion to intervene by Wednesday, where she will also announce the schedule for proceedings going forward.

Last week more than 60 members of the Tennessee House Republican Caucus signed a letter calling for Metro Nashville Police to release the manifesto.


The school is worried about the safety of students and staff should the manifesto be published.
The school is worried about the safety of students and staff should the manifesto be published.
HAMILTON MATTHEW MASTERS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Rep. Jeremy Faison, House Republican Caucus Chair, told The Post: “I’m always anxious when the government people tell me this isn’t good for y’all to look at,” he said.

“I’ll be the decider if I should look at it or not.”

Faison said access to the writings could help elected officials “identify some areas that we could potentially save some lives,” and pointed out legislators are being asked to consider new gun control legislation since the shooting without knowing the totality of Hale’s circumstances.

Although a public hearing over the manifesto was set for June 8, Myles acknowledged it would likely come much later now as police have yet to complete filing their oppositions against publishing the writings.

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