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Attorney General emails detail discussions before botched Oklahoma execution

In the weeks leading up to a botched execution, an Oklahoma assistant attorney general referred to defense attorneys’ warnings that the execution could go awry as “hysterical speculation,” records released to the Tulsa World show.

Assistant Attorney General John Hadden also wrote in a March 21 email that he was “not eager to answer a bunch of questions” from reporters about the state’s execution plans but worried about appearing “overly secretive.”

Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office released more than 100 pages of emails to the World Friday following an Open Records Act request. The World requested all emails since March 1 regarding the execution of Lockett and Warner and development of the state’s execution protocol.

The World’s records requests to Fallin’s office, DOC and the DPS all remain pending.

 

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An audit of the North Lee County Water Association in Mississippi turned up widespread financial management problems, including violations of several state and federal laws, the Daily Journal (Tupelo, MS) reports.

The audit, which is likely “the most rigorous examination ever” of the nonprofit cooperative's financial records, comes on the heels of a $1.2 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Administration.

While copies of the audit are required to be available for public inspection, the water association did not comply with state law.

The association has been plagued with problems, according to the Daily Journal.

Rust-colored water and frequent boil notices have been part of North Lee’s water quality problems for years. In October 2011, all board members resigned amid allegations of misconduct and falsifying water reports. Former North Lee manager Dan Durham pleaded guilty in federal court in 2012 to falsifying the water reports and received probation.

Read the story here.

Part of New York’s Freedom of Information Law requires each state agency to maintain up-to-date “subject matter lists” — indexes of all records maintained by the agency — and to post them on the Internet. But a study of 86 New York state agencies by the Press & Sun-Bulletin found 9 in 10 were not in compliance with that part of the law. Two-thirds of the agencies had not posted a subject matter list online at all, and others were years out of date.

According to the Associated Press, "A newly-released email shows that 11 days after the killing of terror leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, the U.S. military's top special operations officer ordered subordinates to destroy any photographs of the al-Qaida founder's corpse or turn them over to the CIA."

When the AP initially asked for emails to and from Adm. William McRaven, the document ordering the removal or destruction of the bin Laden photos was not included. The conservative legal group Judicial Watch recently received the email under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Read the full story here.


It took the Honolulu-based Civil Beat almost one year and $935 to get access to files on three discharged police officers. The records, which were heavily redacted, provide new insight into the case of an officer accused of raping a woman on the hood of his patrol car.

The officer’s case “illustrates how difficult it is for the public to check on police misconduct and whether police officials are effectively addressing it, including removing bad cops from the street,” the Civil Beat wrote.

Read the full story here.

The online news service has been investigating police misconduct as part of its series "In the Name of the Law.”

“In response to a FOIA request from USA TODAY, the Justice Department said its ethics office never looked into complaints from two federal judges that they had been misled about NSA surveillance.”

“Largely beyond the public spotlight, the decades-old pursuit of bones and other MIA evidence is sluggish, often duplicative and subjected to too little scientific rigor, (an internal military) report says. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the internal study after Freedom of Information Act requests for it by others were denied.”

Terrorism fears have led government to cloak the danger of hazardous chemical plants | The Houston Chronicle
"Around the country, hundreds of buildings like the one in West store some type of ammonium nitrate. They sit in quiet fields and by riverside docks, in business districts and around the corner from schools, hospitals and day care centers. By law, this shouldn’t be a mystery. Yet fears of terrorism have made it harder than ever for homeowners to find out what dangerous chemicals are hidden nearby. Poor communication can also keep rescue workers in the dark about the risks they face."

Milwaukee County mental health system traps patients in cycle of emergency care | The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Milwaukee County's mental health system focuses less on continual care and more on emergency treatment than any in the nation. Despite scandals, studies and promises of reform, the system is like many of its patients: It never gets better."

Welcome to IRE's roundup of the weekend’s many enterprise stories from around the country. We'll highlight the document digging, field work and data analysis that made their way into centerpieces in print, broadcast and online. Did we miss something? Email suggestions to web@ire.org


In California, incarcerated students fall through gaps in special education laws | The Center for Investigative Reporting
"California and federal laws allow students with disabilities to receive special education until age 22. But the laws are vague enough that deciding who should provide that education is unclear."

Now, You Can’t Ban Guns at the Public Pool | ProPublica
"For 20 years, Charleston has been an island of modest gun restrictions in a very pro-gun rights state. But its gun laws — including a ban on guns in city parks, pools and recreation centers — are now likely to be rolled back, the latest victory in a long-standing push to deny cities the power to regulate guns."

Minneapolis cops rarely disciplined in big-payout cases | The Star Tribune
"Despite nearly $14 million in payouts for alleged police misconduct over the past seven years, the Minneapolis Police Department rarely concluded that the officers involved did anything wrong, according to a Star Tribune analysis. Of 95 payouts from 2006 to 2012 to people who said they were victims of misconduct, eight resulted in officers being disciplined, according to records from the police and the city attorney’s office. The 12 costliest settlements were for cases that did not result in any officer discipline, the Star Tribune found. They included the $2.19 million paid in the case of a mentally ill man shot dead in 2006 by police, and the $1 million paid in the case of a woman severely burned by a police flash grenade in 2010."

As Factory Farms Spread, Government Efforts to Curb Threat From Livestock Waste Bog Down | Fair Warning
"As factory farms take over more and more of the nation’s livestock production, a major environmental threat has emerged: Pollution from the waste produced by the immense crush of animals."

Law to protect news sources could backfire in some cases, experts say | St. Louis Beacon
"Contrary to conventional wisdom, the proposed federal shield law backed by the press and President Barack Obama wouldn’t help reporters protect their sources in big national security cases, such as the recent ones involving the AP and James Rosen of Fox. In fact, the law could make it harder for the press to protect sources in those cases."

Legal experts say the proposed federal shield law could actually diminish the protections some federal courts have recognized, the St. Louis Beacon reports. "Contrary to conventional wisdom, the proposed federal shield law backed by the press and President Barack Obama wouldn’t help reporters protect their sources in big national security cases, such as the recent ones involving the AP and James Rosen of Fox. In fact, the law could make it harder for the press to protect sources in those cases."

The Charleston Gazette reports that "a state agency paid a Virginia-based company an estimated $118,000 to review West Virginia's use of $126.3 million in federal stimulus funds to expand high-speed Internet, but Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's administration won't release the consultant's findings to the public."

The reason, Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette told the Gazette, is that at least one of the documents might be "embarrassing to some people."

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