|Columbine files to be destroyed|
Victims' families want depositions made
special room under strict lock-and-key, filled with evidence from
two settled Columbine cases, is being shut down and a federal
magistrate has ordered some of the materials - including depositions
of the killers' parents - destroyed.
The room, in the federal courthouse in downtown Denver, was set
aside in 2002 to "house particular documents and materials deemed to
be worthy of special handling and security," according to court
Now that the two cases have been settled, U.S. Magistrate Judge
Patricia Coan is apparently cleaning house.
But her order has angered families of Columbine victims and
others who want information from depositions of the parents of
killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to be made public.
"Who are they protecting?" asked Rich Petrone, the stepfather of
slain student Daniel Rohrbough. "Are they protecting the murderers'
families? There should be a public outcry."
Petrone and others believe that information gleaned from the
depositions could possibly prevent another Columbine tragedy from
Reflecting on recent school shootings throughout the county,
Petrone called the destruction order by Coan "ridiculous."
Barry Arrington, attorney for the five families who sued the
Harris and Klebold families, said he'll file an appeal of the order.
He has until Oct. 7.
"I am extremely frustrated and my clients are extremely
frustrated," Arrington said.
Arrington said his clients paid $3,000 to record the depositions
of the killers' parents.
"The government is essentially destroying our property without
paying for it," Arrington said.
In the order, handed down by Coan on Tuesday, the court found
that "there would be no further purpose, need or use for any of the
five depositions to remain in existence because the case has been
The two cases involved in the order are Mark Allen Taylor vs.
Solvay Pharmaceuticals Inc.; and Brian Rohrbough and four other
victims' families vs. the parents of Harris and Klebold.
In the Rohrbough case, plantiffs took the depositions of Susan
Klebold on July 29; Thomas Klebold, July 30; Wayne Harris, July 31
and Aug. 1; and Katherine Harris, Aug. 1.
On July 28, the defendants deposed Judy Brown, parent of a
Columbine student at the time of the shootings. She has been a
critic of how authorities, including the Jefferson County Sheriff's
Office, handled the department's initial response to the shooting
and the subsequent investigation.
Brown tried to review her deposition at the courthouse several
times since giving it, but was turned away by the custodian of the
evidence room, known as the "Special Master," she said.
"I wanted to go review my deposition because I had a right to do
it," she said.
Brown, like Petrone, believes the depositions should be in the
"The Harrisses have never answered questions publicly and I think
they should," Brown said. "We are upset. It is disturbing that they
are trying to get rid of evidence so fast in this. It's a
In the order, Coan ruled that "Mrs. Brown was deposed by the
Defendants as a fact witness and her testimony is no longer of any
relevance or import to the case."
Destroying transcripts of depositions is an unusual step, noted
Craig Silverman, a local attorney and former prosecutor who has
followed the Columbine case.
"I have never heard of that happening before," Silverman
After the case against the parents of the killers was settled on
Aug. 12, Dawn Anna, the mother of slain student Lauren Townsend,
released a statement on behalf of all five victims' families. It
said that they were "not satisfied with many of the answers" the
parents of Harris and Klebold gave.
At that time, Anna urged the public and the media to seek the
release of the depositions, which were sealed.
"When the families publicly stated that they wanted the
information released despite a protective order, that had to raise
red flags with the judges overseeing the case," Silverman said
That may have played a part in the order to destroy the
depositions, Silverman said.
"You can't leak what doesn't exist anymore," he said.
On Aug. 26, documents and materials in the evidence room that had
belonged to the Harris family were removed by their attorneys.
Case materials turned over by the Klebolds - including family
photographs, videotapes and other documents - were not kept in the
evidence room. Instead, they were housed in the office of the
Klebolds' attorney, Gary Lozow.
Evidence submitted by the Jefferson County School District will
be destroyed by the court, with the district's permission, according
to the order.
Representatives of the county and the sheriff's office retrieved
material from the evidence room.
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 Columbine High School
students and one teacher on April 20, 1999, before taking their own