APPEALS COURT keeps Earnhardt photos away from Web site owner

Tuesday, May 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ A state appeals court has rejected a Web site operator's quest for access to Dale Earnhardt's autopsy photos.

Michael Uribe, owner of in DeLand, had sought to overturn a lower court's decision barring the release of photos taken of the race car driver after he was killed at the Daytona 500 in February.

However, the 5th District Court of Appeals threw out Uribe's request on Monday, saying he didn't respond to a court order requiring him to explain why his case shouldn't be dismissed. His response was due April 9.

There was no comment Tuesday from Uribe, who did not immediately return a call to his office.

He had not said what he would do with the photos if he gained access, but he has posted autopsy photos of other NASCAR drivers killed at Daytona.

Uribe had argued that Circuit Judge Joseph Will violated the Florida public records law when he imposed a temporary injunction barring release of the autopsy photos on Feb. 22, four days after Earnhardt's death.

Uribe also questioned the legality of an agreement between the Orlando Sentinel and Earnhardt's family that let an independent medical expert review the photos before they were permanently sealed.

Autopsy photos had been open records as part of Florida's Sunshine Law. The Legislature in March passed a bill barring public access to all autopsy photos unless a judge approves the release.

Even with the appeal's court decision, Will has agreed to let Uribe and the University of Florida's student-run newspaper, the Independent Florida Alligator, challenge the new law. No hearing date has been set.