From The Cincinnati Enquirer The Enquirer filed an appeal Wednesday after the Ohio Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled against the news organization last week, stating the unredacted preliminary autopsy reports in the Rhoden family massacre are confidential law enforcement investigatory records and will not be made public.
The Attorney General's office, which has fought to keep the records private, released heavily redacted versions of the final autopsy reports in September 2016. The Enquirer and the Columbus Dispatch sued for the unredacted final records, arguing they are public records under Ohio law. The attorney general argues the release of the records will hinder its ongoing investigation into the unsolved killings.
A Hamilton County Coroner's pathologist performed the autopsies on Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his ex-wife, Dana Rhoden, 37; their children Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 20, Hanna Rhoden, 19, and Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16; Christopher Rhoden Sr.'s brother, Kenneth Rhoden, 44; and a cousin, Gary Rhoden, 38; as well as Hannah Gilley, 20, who was the fiancee of Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden. The redacted reports indicate they were all shot but disclose little else.
Ohio law addresses coroner's records separately from the public records act, and while some exceptions are made for journalists, the court said the Rhoden preliminary autopsy reports at this time remain confidential.
Since the case originated in the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court is obligated to hear the appeal. The Supreme Court will likely receive the record of the appeal in the next two weeks. After the record is received, The Enquirer will have 40 days to file its brief.
Jack Greiner, general counsel for The Enquirer and Cincinnati.com, said he hope the Ohio Supreme Court will rule on the appeal before the end of the year.
"Our biggest concern is that the Attorney General's position would eliminate the text of the statute that makes autopsy records public," Greiner said. "Their argument, in our view, eliminates provisions that the general assembly has made to specifically address autopsy records."