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.
OSU School of Journalism