The mysterious death of former Baltimore federal prosecutor Jonathan Luna 16 years ago is getting renewed attention after the coroner’s office in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, located records thought to be in federal custody.
Now, a private investigator and the local newspaper are asking a judge to unseal the records, and a judge has asked the local district attorney’s office to explain why they should be withheld.
Luna, 38, was found dead in a small Pennsylvania creek on Dec. 4, 2003, stabbed 36 times and with his throat slit, though his official cause of death was drowning. Officials believed he could have been killed by someone he was prosecuting, but information emerged about ongoing personal troubles.
William Buckingham, a York County private detective and former police officer, requested records from the coroner’s office, which found them in a basement. The records were previously believed to be in federal custody.
The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office quickly sought to have the records sealed, saying in court filings that Luna’s case remains open and that their disclosure could compromise future efforts.
“If the details of the autopsy became generally known, the investigative team’s ability to accurately assess the credibility of any future information provided by witnesses, suspects or informants that referenced information related to the autopsy report would be compromised,” the District Attorney’s office wrote.
“The investigation would be fundamentally impaired in that suspects in the investigation and, ultimately, the perpetrator would be alerted to the details known by the investigative team through the autopsy report. ... The disclosure would cause irreparable harm to the commonwealth’s ongoing investigation and any eventual prosecution."
Attorneys for LNP Media Group say that a judge ruled in August 2019 that such records generally should be disclosed. The judge’s ruling didn’t relate specifically to the Luna case, but the news organization says the district attorney’s office is making a boilerplate and insufficient argument to seal the Luna records.