Victims of the Astroworld tragedy want court proceedings to be livestreamed when the first of hundreds of lawsuits gets to trial next month. There has also been further back and forth regarding discovery in these cases, with a dispute over what evidence amassed during the Astroworld police investigation should be shared with lawyers working on the civil litigation. 

“The devastating scale of the events at Astroworld, combined with the involvement of high-profile defendants, has generated significant national attention and a legitimate public demand for transparency and accountability”, a letter from lawyers representing the victims states, according to Billboard. “By livestreaming the trial, the court will demonstrate its commitment to open and accessible proceedings, fostering public trust and confidence in the judicial system’s handling of this consequential matter”. 

Ten people died and hundreds more were injured when a crowd surge occurred during the 2021 edition of the Houston-based, Travis Scott founded and Live Nation promoted Astroworld. Hundreds of lawsuits were filed, by the families of those who died and those who were injured. 

The judge overseeing the cases, Kristen Hawkins, instigated a wide-ranging gagging order early on, which means there has been minimal reporting as all the litigation has progressed. There have been plenty of motions for summary judgement and various court sessions, but those involved in the cases haven't been able to provide commentary in public. If, however, the trial was livestreamed, that would put everything very much in the media spotlight. 

Aside from the public interest argument, the lawyers asking for the livestream also note that the first trial, which centres on legal claims from the family of one of those festival goers who died, Madison Dubiski, will be relevant to those involved in the hundreds of other Astroworld lawsuits. It would be “impractical” for all those people to attend the court to watch the proceedings in person. 

Presumably anticipating some of the objections Hawkins might raise to the livestream plan, the letter insists that any recording of the trial could be “conducted unobtrusively, with minimal disruption to the trial process”, and that the judge would be able to “pause or terminate the broadcast if necessary to preserve order or to protect sensitive information”. 

Elsewhere, lawyers have been debating what evidence gathered during the police investigation into the crowd surge incident should be made available to the victims and their legal teams. Hawkins appointed a former judge, Terry Jennings, to consider that particular question.

There is a 22TB file of data that was collated by the Houston Police Department before a grand jury concluded that there was not a case for pursuing a criminal action against those involved in organising Astroworld 2021. Some defendants and other parties not involved in the civil litigation have asked for some of that data to not be made available to lawyers as part of the discovery process of all the lawsuits. 

On Friday, according to Law360, there was a session to discuss the data. Jason A Itkin, a lawyer working for the victims, said that while much of the Houston Police Department's big file has been turned over during the discovery process, the victims' lawyers need to see all 22TB of the data to figure out what they are missing. 

Itkin also reckons that some defendants haven't voluntarily turned over all the required documents as part of the discovery process. “There is nothing that should be standing in the way of us getting documents that we know should have been produced but haven't”, he added. 

Some of that 22TB of data came from the iCloud accounts of people working on the festival. A warrant was issued that obliged Apple and a number of phone companies to grant police access to communications and data from those people that had been sent or created between 22 Oct and 7 Nov 2021. 

However, for various reasons, police got lots of back-up data from way outside those dates. Lawyers representing the festival workers argue that the data from outside the defined time period should not be made available as part of discovery. 

Jennings didn't make any rulings on the matter on Friday, but he did encourage parties to try to reach an agreement themselves.

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