The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office continues to maintain that autopsy records in the unsolved 2003 death of federal prosecutor Jonathan Luna should be remain sealed.
LNP Media Group, the publisher of LNP | LancasterOnline, has been seeking the records for some time.
Last fall, county officials maintained they weren’t in the coroner’s possession. However, in late January, they were discovered in county archives.
The district attorney’s office has taken the position that unsealing them could hinder the ongoing investigation.
In a county court filing Monday responding to LNP’s efforts to unseal them, the district attorney’s office argued that LNP was conflating the law governing coroner records, which are deemed public, with the court’s power to seal records.
“Specifically, this court is empowered to seal an autopsy report from public inspection upon a ‘showing by the Commonwealth that the release of the report would substantially hinder an ongoing criminal investigation,’ ” the district attorney’s filing said.
President Judge David Ashworth sealed the records in February at the district attorney’s request.
LNP Media Group argues because the investigation appears stalled, there’s little risk of jeopardizing anything. And access serves the public, in part, so it can hold authorities accountable when “conclusions of their investigations seem to inadequately explain the circumstances surrounding an individual’s death,” LNP attorneys wrote.
The prosecutor’s office in its filing asked a judge to deny LNP Media Group’s request for a hearing on the matter, or alternatively, to let a judge review the report confidentially and make findings of fact without revealing its contents.
Luna’s death is one of the most mysterious and high-profile slayings in modern county history. Luna, 38, a prosecutor from Baltimore, was found dead around daybreak Dec. 4, 2003, in a stream by Dry Tavern Road in Brecknock Township. The married father of two had 36 stab wounds.
At the time, the county’s coroner ruled his death a homicide, but federal authorities eventually said Luna committed suicide. The homicide ruling still stands.