ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- The Orlando Sentinel will get a chance to air its concerns that a NASCAR medical expert viewed Dale Earnhardt autopsy photos while the newspaper didn't get the same chance.
"Do you think we would have been as accommodating had we known that NASCAR had an opportunity for its own expert to review them?" Sentinel attorney David Bralow asked Tuesday. "As far as I'm concerned, when something is private, it's private."
The Sentinel tried to have its medical expert review the images, but a deal reached last week with Earnhardt's widow limits access to the photos, which are public records under Florida law.
Lawyers for the Sentinel and Mrs. Earnhardt have scheduled a mediation session for Thursday in Daytona Beach to discuss the latest developments.
Under the agreement, an independent medical expert will look at the photos and then submit a report to the newspaper and the Earnhardt family on the cause of death and an explanation of certain head injuries. The photos then will be permanently sealed, as requested by Teresa Earnhardt.
Thom Rumberger, an Earnhardt attorney, said the Sentinel should think twice before trying to get out of the agreement, which he added couldn't be changed.
"As far as I'm concerned, the Sentinel has pledged their honor, their faith and their fortunes to that agreement," Rumberger said.
The meeting will take place Thursday before mediator John Upchurch.
Dr. Steve Bohannon, a NASCAR medical expert, looked at the photos three days after Earnhardt's fatal wreck at the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18. Bohannon is director of emergency services at the speedway and accompanied Earnhardt in the ambulance to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The next day, a Volusia County judge temporarily sealed the photos at the request of Teresa Earnhardt.
Bohannon later said Earnhardt might have survived the crash if his lap belt had not broken.
The Sentinel is investigating whether safety devices available to stock-car drivers could have saved Earnhardt. Executives have said they had no intention of publishing the photos.
Teresa Earnhardt's attorneys argued that other news organizations would be able to have access to the photos if the Sentinel was granted permission.
NASCAR President Mike Helton said Saturday that a NASCAR medical expert had reviewed the autopsy photos as part of the circuit's investigation into Earnhardt's death. NASCAR spokesman John Griffin confirmed Tuesday that the medical expert was Bohannon, but said "he went to view the pictures as an extension of his duties as the attending physician."
Bralow disputed that conclusion.
"Bohannon is talking about seat belts as a NASCAR expert, not as Earnhardt's personal physician," he said.
An independent student newspaper at the University of Florida, the Independent Florida Alligator, and a Web site are pursuing their own cases to gain access to the photos and aren't part of the agreement.
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