Missouri Paper Publishes Photos in ‘Wrongful Death’ Case

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A newspaper on Friday published a series of photos of University of Missouri football players working out instead of appealing a judge’s order to hand them over to attorneys for a lawsuit over a linebacker’s death.

The Columbia Daily Tribune published the photos on its Web site Friday, two days after a judge ordered the paper to provide the digital images to attorneys representing Aaron O’Neal’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit against school employees.

The 19-year-old freshman collapsed on the field during an hour-long, voluntary workout on July 12, 2005, and died later that afternoon. A medical examiner ruled that O’Neal died of viral meningitis, with swelling in his brain affecting his heart and causing him to lose his ability to breathe properly.

Judge Gary Oxenhandler based his ruling in part on the absence of a reporters’ shield law in Missouri, one of 19 states lacking such defined legal protections for journalists’ notes and other work products.

The paper decided not to challenge Oxenhandler’s ruling, said Tribune Managing Editor Jim, who cited concern that “an unsuccessful appeal would establish a precedent that would harm all Missouri newspapers.”

“Because the 604 photographs taken during the workout and not subsequently published have become a focus of ongoing coverage of the lawsuit, it’s appropriate that we let readers see them,” Robertson wrote.

O’Neal’s parents are suing 14 university employees, including head coach Gary Pinkel, athletic director Mike Alden and team medical director Rex Sharp.

The overwhelming majority of photos released Friday show players other than O’Neal running sprints and agility drills under the guidance of head conditioning coach Pat Ivey and his assistants. The final two photos show O’Neal being helped off the field by a teammate

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