No Sunshine in Oakland CountyPosted: March 21, 2019
The family of an Orlando woman missing for 13 years announced they will receive the unreacted police files from the Orlando Police Department. https://www.wftv.com/news/local/jennifer-kesse-missing-woman-s-family-settles-lawsuit-against-orlando-police/932668245?fbclid=IwAR1zF8LpwPb_d3AvX2s__bF7nrJ8yAZthTjH7FpGl5sYxLgemHtbvpG4mgU
The family filed suit against the police department to obtain their records on the case so their private investigator could try to make some headway where the PD had not. As part of the settlement, the PD has to turn over the unreacted files in the case. Unreacted. Thirteen year old unsolved case.
In 1995, four Florida newspapers, the Mobile Press Register, the Sun Sentinel, the Palm Beach Post, and the Miami Herald, sued the Hollywood (Florida) Police Department to gain immediate access to the HPD files on Adam’s case. After 14 years, there had been no arrests and no updates. The court rejected all of the “open case” exception arguments under the Florida Sunshine Law (Freedom of Information Act), as well as the family’s arguments against release and ordered the HPD to put all the files on microfilm and have it available within four months. At the time of the deadline, news organizations paid $235 a piece for a set of microfilm. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1996-02-18-9602180348-story.html
Fourteen year old, unsolved case. $235 per set of microfilm. As you probably know, the case was ultimately closed by HPD when they admitted and concluded that one of their early suspects was no doubt the killer. The chief of police acknowledged and apologized to the Walsh family. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJmOgeFvpls
In this sorry case, my Dad paid over $11,000 for redacted documents from the Michigan State Police. And trust me, they didn’t turn over everything they should have. And they made my Dad file a lawsuit to get those documents. The Oakland County Prosecutor’s office fought the FOIA request all the way. None of the courts in Oakland County or the higher courts cited one, single case citation to the Michigan Sunshine Law/FOIA.
Here is what a pamphlet on the Michigan FOIA law concludes with:
When in doubt, consider the policy of the Act. Analysis should begin with the presumption that any records requested are subject to disclosure. No records are exempt unless they fit within one of the specific exemptions, which will be narrowly construed. The best policy for a public body is to accept the pro-disclosure intent and language of the act and to respond accordingly.
It has been a long time since I read Tears of Rage by John Walsh (1997). He says much that bears repeating, but this hits hard:
Many different kinds of people are victims. And the system doesn’t serve any of them. It brutalizes them all. Violence against women and children is a symptom. A symptom of how the lofty goals this society was founded on do not apply to the weak. The system that was designed to protect these women and children–and now men–instead victimizes them and revictimizes them.
Id., p. 378.
Thank you to Nina Innsted for sending me the link about the Jennifer Kesse case. In this more than forty year old case, Michigan has managed to keep the lid on tight. The media never went after the MSP or Oakland County. In many other unsolved cases, officials have been forced to comply with FOIA laws and their bullshit “forever open” exception is rejected. And let’s not forget our friends at the FBI who allegedly could not produce any records on Fox Island, Frank Shelden or Chris Busch because the files were lost in a catastrophic flood. Don’t you love it when a bullshitter uses extra adjectives to bolster an answer?
I hope all of the dirty players at every level and every stage in the investigation in the case are one day revealed. When you contrast this case to the cases described above, you know something is very rotten here.