In a major Open Records decision, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, Dec. 28, that Columbus Division of Police must release its files on closed criminal cases.
Columbus officials had argued the records could not be released as long as defendants still had potential appeals, The Columbus Dispatch reported. In the lawsuit filed by the Ohio Innocence Project, proponents said that practice rendered the police records secret until defendants died or were freed from prison.
Senior Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul E. Pfefier wrote in the majority opinion.
“A defendant or member of the public can access potentially exonerating material concerning a defendant only after the defendant is dead. How did we get to this point?” he wrote. “We also should be concerned about the interests of justice.”
Read the full Columbus Dispatch article at this link:
Columbus attorney Fred Gittes argued on behalf of the Ohio Innocence Project in the suit.
Gittes is a past winner of the Central Ohio SPJ’s First Amendment Award (2006).
“The court made Ohio’s justice system better today. Ohioans owe a debt to the Ohio Innocence Project …”
Gittes represented Donald Caster, an Ohio Innocence Project lawyer who said that police illegally refused to release records in the case of Adam Saleh, who was convicted of the 2005 murder of Julie Popovich, 20, of Reynoldsburg.
“The court’s decision will help prevent innocent people from spending years in jail and get the actual criminals off the street and into prison where they belong,” Gittes said in the Dispatch article. “The court made Ohio’s justice system better today. Ohioans owe a debt to the Ohio Innocence Project …”