Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Legislator withdraws bill restricting access to autopsy records

State legislators won't be voting again this session on a bill that would have restricted access to portions of homicide autopsy reports.

Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Tuttle, pulled HB 3155 because of stiff opposition on the House floor, The Oklahoman reported today.

Versions of the bill had passed the House and Senate. Osborn said the revised measure being considered Monday was intended to cover only homicides in which law enforcement officials "are grasping at straws" and have little evidence pointing to a suspect, The Oklahoman reported

Among those who seemed critical of the bill during an hour-long debate Monday were Rep. Lucky Lamons, D-Tulsa, and Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City. Both legislators had signed FOI Oklahoma's Open Government Pledge during their most recent campaigns.

Of the 12 House members who have signed the Pledge, only Lamons -- a former Tulsa police officer -- voted against the original bill when it passed the House in March.

In April, this blog noted examples of the press and public using autopsy reports elsewhere to uncover incompetency and corruption by police, medical examiners and coroners.

But Osborn told The Oklahoman she might introduce another version of the bill next year even though a similar measure had also stalled during last year's legislative session.

Let's hope not. As evidenced elsewhere, the public has a legitimate need to know the details of autopsy reports involving homicides or when the manner of death is unknown.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Journalism


  1. Absolutely correct. ALL enforcement agencies should have transparency to the public as well as the government. If the police shooting autopsies are not to be allowed as open records, it is my opinion they believe they are either 1. above the law that pertains to non enforcement citizens or 2. they have something to fear. As corruption and police shootings become more and more common, more and more mistakes are being made by enforcement agencies. They need to be held accountable for their actions. And the public has a right to access these records. We have a constitutional right no less. I commend the representatives that voted AGAINST this bill.

  2. Thanks for the great article! There is hope for us bloggers out there! All the best!

    public records


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