PBS filmmaker gains access to Salazar death documents after two-year battle

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After a two-year fight, documentary filmmaker Phillip Rodriguez has gained access to autopsy results, investigative documents and coroner’s photographs relating to the controversial 1970 killing of journalist Ruben Salazar by a Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputy, according to MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.


Rodriguez is working on a film about the murder, Ruben Salazar: The Man in the Middle, for PBS. The project was funded by Latino Public Broadcasting in 2010.

Over the past two years, MALDEF said, the Sheriff’s Department had claimed the documents were exempt from public records requests. Sheriff Lee Baca allowed a limited public inspection of the records in March 2011, but refused to allow copies to be made. In April, MALDEF filed a petition to compel Baca to release copies of the public records relating to Salazar’s death. On Dec. 4, Baca agreed to allow Rodriguez unobstructed access to all the materials.

“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,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel, in the announcement.

Rodriguez’s documentary is set for release in fall 2013. His past films on PBS include Latinos ’08 and Brown Is the New Green: George Lopez and the American Dream.

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