The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

February 21, 2013

Records in more than a dozen criminal cases ordered sealed in the past year

TULSA, Okla. — A Tulsa judge’s order to seal all records involving a material witness to a quadruple slaying is among records in more than a dozen criminal cases ordered sealed in the past year in Tulsa County District Court.

Tulsa County prosecutors say such cases are rare, but records indicate they are occurring with more frequency in Tulsa and statewide. Advocates for open government are alarmed at the trend, and a measure to curtail the practice is moving through the state Legislature.

Tulsa County District Court Clerk Sally Howe Smith said judges have ordered individual records in 14 felony cases and a few misdemeanor cases sealed since Jan. 1, 2012. Most of those records relate to medical issues, such as mental competency of criminal defendants, or juvenile records, Smith said.

Others deal with requests for communications wiretaps that authorities wanted sealed “for obvious reasons,” she said.

“It’s things that are confidential by operation of law that had impact in a filed public record case,” she said.

Smith said it is highly unusual for all criminal records in a case to be sealed except for cases that are expunged as allowed by law. Sealed records are more common in civil cases, she said.

Federal judges order criminal records sealed far more often in general. Numerous records were initially sealed in a federal case resulting in charges against six former Tulsa police officers and a former federal agent. Many records in the investigation were sealed until the Tulsa World made the matter public.

‘Witness to material facts’

State court judges have traditionally been more reluctant to seal records.

In Tulsa County District Court, records sealed in the past year include documents related to material witnesses held in two homicide cases. In both cases, judges who once served as assistants in the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office sealed the records.

In August, Tulsa District Judge Bill Musseman approved the sealing of records in a double homicide case at a Tulsa Best Buy store. Musse-man ordered the records — an application for a warrant and the warrant itself — related to material witness Shania Craven unsealed in October, records show.

The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office requested a judge to seal all records last month regarding another material witness, Susie Pauline Canady, 25. Canady is being held as a material witness in the killings of four women at the Fairmont Terrace apartment complex near 61st Street and Peoria Avenue on Jan. 7.

The request and the order sealing the records cite general concerns about Canady’s safety and the integrity of the investigation. The request states Canady, who lists a Vinita address, is “a witness to material facts associated with an ongoing homicide investigation.”

Other court filings indicate police were unsure about the credibility of her statements, but the records remained sealed more than a month.

Her criminal record shows she was most recently charged in Craig County with bail jumping in October 2011, although the charge was later dismissed. Other charges against Canady in Craig County go back to 2006 and involve burglary.

State law allows officials to hold a person who is a material witness to a crime if the witness is believed to have information and is not cooperative or is a flight risk.

Associate Tulsa County District Judge Dana Kuehn ordered all records involving her case sealed on Jan. 11 and held several hearings in the case during the past month, records show.

Kuehn barred a World reporter from attending a hearing in the case Friday.

First Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond said the case was sealed to protect the integrity of the investigation and to protect the material witness. Drummond filed a request Thursday to unseal the records, which was granted by Kuehn.

Canady has been in the Tulsa Jail since Jan. 11 but — until the order lifting the seal — no public records were available that identified her or showed whether she has been charged with a crime.

As of Saturday evening, her name and mug shot did not appear on records showing prisoners being held at the Tulsa Jail. Kuehn’s order states that arrest and booking records held by the jail and Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office “shall no longer be sealed.”

Jail officials released Canady’s arrest and booking report, which indicates she provided details to police about how the women were bound and shot.

Additionally, Tulsa police apparently released false information to the public regarding Canady’s arrest.

In a story posted on its website Jan. 11 that cited anonymous sources, the World reported a material witness in the case had been questioned and arrested. Several hours later, the Tulsa Police Department released a statement to local media saying no arrests had been made in the case.

Records show Canady was arrested by Tulsa police at 4 a.m. Jan. 11, 12 hours before the department’s press release stating: “There have not been any arrests made in connection with the homicides.”

“Please be patient and consider the credibility of information that may be released from non Tulsa Police Department sources,” the release states.

Police Chief Chuck Jordan said Friday the department “misspoke” in the press release. He said the intent was to say that police had not arrested anyone suspected of direct involvement in the slayings and the public’s help was still needed.

“There was no intent to mislead people,” Jordan said.

Text Only
National and world
  • Obama leaders web.jpg Migrants: President Obama urges Latino leaders, Republicans to help

    White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer said that House Speaker John Boehner’s effort to sue Obama over his use of executive authority “has opened the door for Republicans possibly considering impeachment at some point in the future.”

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast web.jpg Gaza sides agree to lull but truce efforts stall

    The latest diplomatic setbacks, after several days of high-level diplomacy in the region, signaled that both sides are digging in and that the fighting in Gaza is likely to drag on.
    Israel wants more time to destroy Hamas military tunnels and rocket launching sites in Gaza, while the territory’s Hamas rulers want international guarantees that a Gaza border blockade will be lifted before they cease fire.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Hospital Shoo_Hass.jpg Official: Hospital gunman intended to kill others

    A psychiatric patient ranted about a hospital gun ban before opening fire at the suburban medical complex, killing his caseworker and grazing his psychiatrist before the doctor pulled out his own weapon and fired back.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65.

    July 25, 2014

  • g000258000000000000245c0063741aaafcc815c5b3199362fb09f8a7c3.jpg Llama on the loose corralled in Missouri town

    
Gibson called Diamond City Hall for help but the police chief was out on another call. The city clerk came to join in the surveillance ...

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Severe Weather web.jpg Tornado slams Virginia campground; 2 dead

    A couple from New Jersey was killed when a tree fell on their tent. Their 13-year-old son, in a tent next to them, had life-threatening injuries.
    He was among three dozen people hurt.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Aviations Bad Week web.jpg Bad week for aviation: Airline disasters come in a cluster

    Industry analysts and safety experts shake their heads at the seeming randomness of the tragedies, saying they can find no common themes. Nor do they think the events indicate that flying is suddenly becoming less safe.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obama Economic Patriotism web.jpg Obama wants limits on mergers abroad by U.S. companies

    “They’re technically renouncing their U.S. citizenship. They’re declaring they are based someplace else even though most of their operations are here,” Obama said at a technical college in Los Angeles. “You know, some people are calling these companies corporate deserters.”
    He also charged that such companies are “cherry-picking the rules.”

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arizona Execution web.jpg As inmate died, lawyers debated if he was in pain

    Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan read a statement Thursday outside his office dismissing the notion the execution was botched, calling it an “erroneous conclusion” and “pure conjecture.” He said IVs in the inmate’s arms were “perfectly placed” and insisted that Wood felt no pain.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Economic Recovery web.jpg U.S. economy, though sluggish, may now be sturdier

    • Inflation is under control. Runaway price increases would be destructive. Low inflation can lay a foundation for growth.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads