A state judge has tossed out the indictment of a state official who was accused of releasing information on an inmate suicide that he felt was public, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports.
We reported last month on the indictment in Nueces County of Adan Munoz Jr., executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Munoz gave reporters at two Corpus Christi outlets, the Caller-Times and KIII-TV, intake information on an inmate who committed suicide on Feb. 7 suicide at the county jail. Nueces County Sheriff Jim Kaelin was peeved and said the form was not the commission's to release. The prosecutor’s office filed charges and got an indictment.
The commission on jail standards insisted that the intake form is a public record.
Along with throwing out the indictment, State District Judge Sandra Watts also threw out subpoenas for the reporters involved.
The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas cheered the news. Its attorneys had questioned the validity of the indictment, which the foundation says should never have been filed in the first place.
Lingering is the question of whether a jail intake form is a public record. If so, would it still be public if it becomes part of an investigation into a suicide or other mishap? And would that give law enforcement too much leeway to hamper the free and public reporting on the incident?
According to the story, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office said an opinion on whether a jail intake form is public is due by Nov. 9.
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo of a gavel by flickr user Joe Gratz, used via a Creative Commons license.