Parents: Bar release of video of UConn student's death

AP News
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Posted: Mar 06, 2017 4:09 PM

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The parents of a University of Connecticut student who died after being run over by a campus fire department vehicle are asking a judge to prohibit public release of a surveillance video of the accident, saying it would be offensive and upset her family.

Abraham and Shinymol Chemmarappally, of West Hartford, requested an order last week as part of a lawsuit against the state and the driver of the fire department vehicle. Their request came after The Hartford Courant, ABC News and the local NBC affiliate requested copies of the video from UConn under public record laws. The requests for the video remain pending.

A Hartford Superior Court judge has scheduled a hearing for next Monday.

"Any disclosure of this video would be highly offensive, distressing and cause severe emotional anguish to the plaintiffs and to the close family members," the couple's lawyer, Michael Walsh, wrote in the request. "The plaintiffs further submit that such disclosure may also impair the abilities of the parties to empanel a fair and impartial jury at the time of trial."

The couple's daughter, Jeffny Pally, fell asleep with her back against a garage door of the UConn Public Safety Complex aroound 1 a.m. on Oct. 16 after drinking alcohol at an off-campus party, police said. A fire department sport utility vehicle ran over her while responding to what turned out to be a false alarm. The driver of the SUV, firefighter Dana Barrow Jr., told police he thought he ran over a piece of equipment.

The 19-year-old sophomore's body wasn't found until about 30 minutes later when firefighters returned. She died from injuries to her head and torso, the medical examiner's office determined. The death was ruled an accident, and Barrow wasn't charged.

On Friday, the Courant and the state Freedom of Information Commission filed court papers objecting to the request to withhold release of the video, saying that would circumvent the state's public records law. The newspaper's lawyer wrote in a legal brief that public interest in the case is high, and withholding the video "would inhibit the Courant's ability to report upon the actions of the taxpayer funded UConn Fire Department."

"The Hartford Courant routinely requests and reviews public records in compliance with the law as part of its mission to investigate and inform," Andrew. S. Julien, the newspaper's publisher & editor-in-chief, said in a statement.

The lawsuit by Pally's parents accuses the state and Barrow of negligence and carelessness. It also alleges Barrow drove the SUV recklessly.

Barrow declined to comment Monday on the lawsuit. Jeffrey Pingpank, a lawyer for the state and Barrow, also did not return messages seeking comment Monday and last week.

UConn officials cannot comment on pending litigation, a school spokeswoman said.

Six University of Connecticut students have been charged with alcohol-related offenses connected to Pally's death. The students hosted the off-campus party that Pally attended at a fraternity-related house during homecoming weekend. Two other students have been charged in connection with the false alarm that Barrow was responding to when he ran over Pally.