Yesterday, we posted South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley's rationale as for why the Richard Benda death investigation should remain secret.
Today, we're posting reporter Bob Mercer's rebuttal. Both documents are part of a petition Mercer filed to the state Hearing Examiner's office to appeal the Jackley's initial denial that he and another reporter see a copy of the investigation.
Part of Mercer's rebuttal rests on the fact that the state started by revealing information vital to the public interest. Mercer writes:
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One month after his death, the public learned Richard Benda was under state and federal investigation for various activities during his six years as secretary of tourism and state development in the Rounds administration and thereafter. Those disclosures about Benda by the attorney general and the governor fueled public interest in his death. The subsequent revelation through the death certificate materials about how he reportedly ended his life – using a stick to push the trigger to fire the shotgun --raised more questions. Because Richard Benda is dead and there evidently won’t be any further government action regarding his death, the only clear-cut way remaining to address public interest regarding his death is through release of the death investigation reports.
The state Office of Hearing Examiner will at some point rule on all of this. Stay tuned for more.