CHANDLERA judge has ruled confidential records involving Kelsey Smith-Briggs can be released to her parents and the man accused of killing the girl, but not to the public. Special Judge David Cawthon made the decision in a case that has attracted widespread attention. The judge told The Oklahoman he cannot by state law release the records to everyone. Cawthon said he or another judge could consider allowing the father or mother to release the records, if either shows it is in the public interest. Kelsey, 2, died four months after Associate District Judge Craig Key returned Kelsey to her mother's care. The child had been moved from relative to relative while the Department of Human Services investigated abuse allegations. Her stepfather, Michael Lee Porter, 25, of Meeker is charged with first-degree murder. His attorney asked for the records to help prepare a defense. The records involve Department of Human Services files and transcripts of court hearings in Kelsey's child welfare case. The judge ruled the documents "are to retain their confidential nature. The child's father, Lance Briggs, asked for the records in part because he was away in the military most of this year. His attorney, Derek Burch, said they have not decided whether to ask the court to allow them to release information in the records. "My goal is to get this father access to these records, because he needs to see what happened to his daughter, Burch said. "It would be premature to comment on whether we're going to fight to release them without having seen what they contain. Briggs has notified the state that he intends to file a lawsuit over the death. In his tort claim notice, he's demanding $15 million and a systemwide overhaul of the Department of Human Services. Kelsey's mother, Raye Dawn Porter, already has some of the records. Her attorney is reviewing them in case she is charged, too. She has denied ever abusing Kelsey. Prosecutors say Kelsey died Oct. 11 from blunt force trauma to her stomach. An Oklahoma law approved after the death of another child, Ryan Luke, allows the release of summaries of Department of Human Services records and court proceedings, once someone is charged. In Kelsey's case, the Department of Human Services released a four-page summary. The Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth released a 13 page summary. The commission is preparing another summary focusing on the court hearing returning Kelsey to her mother. The author of the 1996 Ryan Luke law said little became public in child welfare cases before then. "I had to negotiate and struggle and all that kind of stuff just to get the little bit that we got, former state Rep. Laura Boyd said. "I would like to even have more, but that's where we are. "Particularly the judges are awful, she said. "They think they're God. They don't think they have to answer to anyone. ... They were the ones that were the most difficult to deal with. Contributing: Staff Writer Nolan Clay
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