Editor’s note: The ONA is part of coalition seeking to change this law.
The director of the Ohio Innocence Project vented his frustration over obtaining police case files in a recent blog post, writing that police and prosecutors seem to be making a concerted effort to keep others from looking over their shoulders for wrongful convictions.
As reported in The Dispatch more than two years ago in this article, Godsey laments that it has become exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to obtain public records that officials claim are shielded from disclosure as long as prisoners’ cases are “open” because they still have appeal rights.
“What is happening in Ohio is nothing if not a perfect example of how quickly government can act to circle the wagons and deny us crucial rights necessary to preserve justice and democracy,” Godsey wrote.
Efforts are underway to propose amendments to the Ohio Public Records Act to ensure the press and public can obtain investigative case files in cases where convictions have been secured, Godsey wrote.
Jeff Furbee, legal adviser to the Columbus Division of Police, objects to Godsey’s characterizations.
“Frankly it is too bad when commentators/activists attempt to sensationalize the issue by claiming that police departments that follow Ohio Public Records law are somehow engaging in ‘cover-ups,’ ” Furbee said. “There are avenues for criminal defendants to obtain all needed records and we simply ask that these proper avenues be utilized so that it is a fair process.”
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien and Columbus police have worked with the Innocence Project over the years to help ensure that innocent people are not in prison, Furbee said.