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Oklahoma judge lets open records lawsuit for botched execution records continue

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  1. Freedom of Information
An Okahoma trial judge has denied a motion to dismiss an open records lawsuit against Oklahoma Gov. Marry Fallin and…

An Okahoma trial judge has denied a motion to dismiss an open records lawsuit against Oklahoma Gov. Marry Fallin and Commissioner of Public Safety Michael Tompson.

The case involves several requests made by Tulsa World Enterprise Editor Ziva Branstetter under Oklahoma's Open Records Act seeking, among other things, the transcripts of witness interviews conducted as part of the investigation into what happened during Clayton Lockett's botched execution in April 2014, and for email between state officials discussing the issue.

Branstetter's requests were pending for seven months before she and Tulsa World filed suit.

Katie Townsend, litigation director at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, along with Robert Nelon of Hall Estill, argued before the court last Friday on behalf of Tulsa World and Branstetter.

The Department of Public Safety recently released thousands of pages of transcripts to Tulsa World in response to the lawsuit. But hundreds of those pages were partially or fully redacted without individual explanations, making it impossible to determine whether the redactions were legally permissible. Judge Patricia Parrish ordered the defendants to produce a log detailing the basis for the redactions within 30 days.

Judge Parrish also denied the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment without prejudice, on the basis that there are factual issues still to resolve in the case.

She rejected the defendants' arguments that the court lacks the jurisdiction to hear the case on the basis that there has not been an express denial of the open records request. Judge Parrish concluded that the delay can amount to a denial of access and that courts have the power to determine whether a delay is reasonable.

In a separate case, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a constitutional challenge to Oklahoma's execution regime on April 29.

All documents related to the case can be found at the Reporters Committee's Litigation page.

Related Reporters Committee resources:

· Reporters Committee Litigation