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Records remain closed

By Ann Weaver Published: December 13, 2005
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.

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