A yearly check by a Pennsylvania State Police trooper of two state crime databases doesn’t amount to an ongoing investigation, LNP Media Group argues in a court filing seeking release of autopsy records in the 2003 death of a federal prosecutor whose body was found in Lancaster County.
The records, which document the medical examiner’s review of Jonathan Luna’s remains had been presumed lost or not in the county’s possession, but were found in county archives in January. Soon after their discovery, the district attorney’s office had them sealed on the grounds that releasing them could jeopardize the investigation into Luna's death.
LNP Media Group, the publisher of LNP | LancasterOnline, filed an updated brief on Friday, responding to evidence presented at an October hearing on the issue before Lancaster County President Judge David Ashworth.
At the October hearing, Trooper Chad Roberts testified that he and the FBI are investigating Luna’s death. Roberts, who has been on the case since 2013, testified that he conducts annual reports on each cold case and completed one on the Luna case last December.
But, LNP wrote in its new brief, Roberts’ “testimony revealed that the state police are not searching for new evidence, seeking out new witnesses to interview, or actively pursuing any theories into the death of Jonathan Luna. Therefore, it is the contention of LNP that there is no ongoing investigation … that could be hindered by release of the corner records requested …”
While it’s LNP‘s position that the autopsy report should be released, the news organization said Ashworth could use his discretion to keep some portions private should he determine that it’s in the best interest of the investigation to do so.
And, LNP argues, an active investigation shouldn’t preclude release of the records. “Disclosure of the requested records and their reporting to the public may spark the receipt of new information or encourage persons having relevant knowledge to come forward and assist law enforcement with moving its investigative efforts forward,” LNP wrote.
LNP also asked that if Ashworth concludes the investigation is active, that prosecutors appear in court in six months to present evidence on what’s being done if it wishes to keep the records sealed.
Luna, 38, an assistant U.S. attorney from Baltimore, was found dead around daybreak on 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 coroner’s homicide ruling still stands. Few details of the investigation have been revealed over the past 17 years. There are no known suspects or motive.
The district attorney’s office has a month to respond to LNP’s arguments.