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911 tapes must be released to The Columbus Dispatch

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    News Media Update         OHIO         Freedom of Information         March 2, 2005    

911 tapes must be released to The Columbus Dispatch

  • State Supreme Court orders 911 tapes — not just transcripts — to be made public.

March 2, 2005 — The Ohio Supreme Court unanimously ruled last week that 911 tapes are open records and must be released in any form, including copies of the actual tape.

Morrow County Prosecuting Attorney Charles S. Howland had allowed The Columbus Dispatch in January to listen to a tape of a 911 call to emergency officials concerning a homicide, but declined to give the paper a recording of the call. Instead, reporters were given a transcript.

The paper challenged Howland’s decision directly to the state Supreme Court.

“Nine-one-one tapes in general . . . are public records which are not exempt from disclosure and must be immediately released upon request,” said the ruling.

The ruling means anyone who pays copying costs can have access to 911 calls.

Justice Paul E. Pfeifer, in a concurrence, called on the state legislature to change the open records law so 911 tapes are no longer public. “A transcript of a 911 call would convey the necessary information without transforming a personal tragedy into a public spectacle,” he wrote.

(State ex. rel. Dispatch Printing Co. v. Morrow Cty. Prosecutor’s Office; Counsel: John W. Zeiger and Marion H. Little Jr., Zeiger, Tigges, Little & Lindsmith, L.L.P., Columbus, Ohio)AB

© 2005 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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