From the Associated Press Columbus police are improperly shielding the complete files of a long-closed criminal case, according to a public records lawsuit that contends police around the state increasingly refuse to release such records until all chance of appeals are exhausted, usually because the defendant is dead.
At issue is an attempt by the Ohio Innocence Project to review the case of a man sentenced to 38 years in prison for killing a woman in 2005. The project doesn’t represent defendant Adam Saleh but wants to review the records, which Saleh alleges will bolster his claim that he didn’t do it.
The broader issue, according to the lawsuit, is that police departments are wrongly interpreting prior court rulings when it comes to the public’s right to get information about closed cases.
The agencies are using their interpretation “to rationalize blanket denials of public records requests by both criminal defendants and members of the general public,” according to the lawsuit by Cincinnati attorney Donald Caster.
A 2000 appeals court ruling said police aren’t obligated to release the files without proof that no further appeals are possible, “e.g., the defendant’s death.”
The suit says changes in Ohio Supreme Court evidence rules have addressed concerns raised by older court rulings regarding the release of case files. The lawsuit wants the court to order Columbus to make the records immediately available.
The court referred the case to mediation. The city attorney’s office declined comment.