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Police forced to withhold records about Enron executive's suicide

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    NMU         TEXAS         Freedom of Information         May 2, 2002    

Police forced to withhold records about Enron executive’s suicide

  • Executive’s family successfully obtained two temporary restraining orders to prevent further release of records after police disclosed suicide note.

When Sugar Land, Texas, police officially closed an investigation into the suicide of a former Enron executive last week, they began preparing to release some of their records, just as they had released a suicide note earlier in the month.

But a court order halted the effort, meaning no more records would be forthcoming in the immediate future.

The family of former Enron executive John Clifford Baxter, who shot himself on Jan. 25, secured two temporary restraining orders from a Travis County judge to prevent further release of records about Baxter’s suicide.

On April 11, the department released a suicide note from Baxter, following an opinion from the Texas attorney general’s office that the document was a public record. That opinion determined that Baxter became a public figure after the Enron’s collapse, partly because he was a defendant named in several investor lawsuits.

In the same opinion, the attorney general’s office authorized the release of information from Baxter’s Texas driver’s license, police photos taken of Baxter and his car after his suicide, an autopsy order and basic information from the Sugar Land Police Department’s incident report about Baxter’s suicide.

“We have conducted an independent, thorough and complete investigation of this case that meets all accepted police investigative practices and are ready to release information about the case,” Police Chief Earnest Taylor said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we aren’t able to do so until the court allows us to move forward.”

A hearing is scheduled for May 9.

PT

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