Transparency News, 3/21/23

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Attorneys representing two of the defendants charged in the death of mental patient Irvo N. Otieno filed court motions Monday asking a judge to bar the public release of any evidence in the case — including a hospital security video that shows the events leading to Otieno's death. If granted, Dinwiddie Commonwealth's Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill would be prohibited from releasing the hospital video that she said shows how the seven Henrico sheriff deputies and three hospital employees from Central State Hospital held down Otieno for 12 minutes before he died of asphyxiation. The 10 defendants were charged last week with second-degree murder. The motions to bar the tape and other evidence from being released publicly were filed by Edward Riley IV, who is representing Henrico Deputy Kaiyell Sanders, and attorneys Emilee Hasbrouck and Doug Ramseur, who is representing Central State Hospital technician Wavie Jones. Hasbrouck and Ramseur's motion also seeks to bar Baskervill from publicly commenting on the case outside of the courtroom.

Jim Scearce filed a motion Friday in Pittsylvania County Circuit Court asking the judge to reconsider his case against Tunstall District Supervisor Vic Ingram and the Board of Supervisors. The motion was denied. Earlier this month, Pittsylvania County Circuit Court Judge Stacey Moreau dismissed Scearce's suit alleging that Ingram had violated open meeting laws in connection with naming the future jail after a former sheriff. The case was dismissed due to lack of evidence. In his motion filed March 17, Scearce alleges that Ingram testified under oath during the March 3 court hearing that no Naming Committee meeting had occurred and the court accepted his testimony.

Augusta County Supervisor Steve Morelli resigned his position representing the South River District on Monday. The news of Morelli’s resignation came during a monthly staff briefing supervisors receive. The briefings are now live streamed like regular board meetings are. The resignation was announced after supervisors met in closed session for more than an hour. Wayne District Supervisor Scott Seaton asked that the board continue to live stream the announcement of Morelli’s resignation. Seaton, who had planned a statement regarding the resignation, withheld that statement. But he said the news of the resignation needed to be public. “We need to have transparency,” Seaton said. Pastures District Supervisor Pam Carter agreed with Seaton, saying such an action needed to be public.

The U.S. Park Police officer who fatally shot a 17-year-old on Saturday after getting into a car with him was wearing a body camera, according to police, but it is unclear whether the public will ever see that footage. While D.C. law requires the city’s police force to release body-cam footage within five business days of a serious use of force, there are no regulations that mandate the National Park Service’s law enforcement arm to do the same. The Park Police referred the request for footage to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) office, which, for the National Park Service, had an average processing time of 127 days for simple requests in 2022, according to the FOIA website.

With historic documents, human health is not at risk, but human knowledge is. The culprit is cellulose acetate lamination, which in the 1930s seemed like a great way to preserve important papers. Into the 1990s, this type of lamination was widely used, with Virginia a national leader. William J. Barrow, who worked at what’s now the Library of Virginia, became a leading champion and entrepreneur of the process, developing a patented roller laminator. The Library of Virginia is encouraging local circuit court clerks to make removing the laminate a top priority. It suggests that clerks should seek preservation grants annually from the library for that purpose as well as from private sources such as the Daughters of the American Revolution. Virginia’s lawmakers should also support this important preservation effort. When they finish up the new budget, money for saving these documents should be included in the final agreement.