Phillip Rodriguez will have access to unredacted autopsy and investigative documents, and coroner's photos, for his documentary on the 1970 death in East Los Angeles of journalist Ruben Salazar. MALDEF announced today a settlement with Sheriff Lee Baca to release the records. Salazar was killed when a sheriff's smoke grenade was fired through the door of a bar during the Chicano Moratorium March on August 29, 1970. Salazar was with KMEX-TV at the time, had previously worked for the Los Angeles Times, and was considered the nation's most prominent Chicano journalist.
"This settlement ensures that the Sheriff can no longer attempt to control the use of critical historical records on the killing of iconic journalist Rubén Salazar. The public, through the forthcoming documentary film, will immediately benefit from the availability of these unredacted records in assessing Salazar's death 42 years ago," stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. On December 4, 2012, the Sheriff and the County agreed to disclose unredacted autopsy and investigative documents, and coroner's photos regarding Salazar’s death on August 29, 1970, enabling Phillip Rodriguez to reproduce copies of the documents, and use them in his film....
Prior to filing litigation, MALDEF sent numerous written requests in 2010 for documents regarding Salazar’s death. Over the past two years, the Sheriff’s Department has justified its refusal of full disclosure by claiming the documents were exempt from public records requests. However, Sheriff Baca waived any exemption rights when he allowed limited public inspection of the records in March 2011. That public inspection came with unlawful conditions, including a ban on the making of copies. In April 2012, MALDEF filed a petition for writ of mandate to compel Sheriff Baca to release copies of public records relating to the death of Salazar without redactions.
The records now made available without redactions and for reproduction will allow Rodriguez to narrate a more accurate account of Salazar's controversial death than ever before possible. His documentary will be the first independent and thorough investigation of the mysterious and controversial events surrounding Salazar's death. "The film will illuminate an often neglected and misrepresented chapter of American history that was foundational in the development of the Latino cultural and political identity," stated Rodriguez.
The film, “Rubén Salazar: The Man in the Middle,” will air in the fall of 2013 on PBS primetime to national audiences.