Proposal would keep Oklahoma autopsy files secret

BY JULIE BISBEE Modified: March 26, 2010 at 6:21 am •  Published: March 26, 2010
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/> This provision would also apply to all deaths investigated by the state Medical Examiner’s Office. That could make it difficult for family members to get information on their loved ones, said Mark Thomas, president of the Oklahoma Press Association.

Thomas said he continues to work with law enforcement and the District Attorneys Council on compromise language that would allow public access to the government records and not jeopardize investigations.

"We don’t want to be an impediment to solving crimes,” Thomas said. "But there are times when the public needs to be confronted with the facts, there is a very dangerous killer living in our midst. It’s a balancing act.”

Officials are looking at laws in several different states for examples of how to keep pertinent details under wraps. Sunne Riedl Day, legal counsel for OSBI, said there are several states that limit the release of information from autopsy reports. The agency is currently looking at Iowa state laws that allow an autopsy report to be released to family members upon request, unless disclosure would jeopardize an investigation.

The measure now goes to the full Senate for consideration.