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RIP Kevin Callahan: Innocent man killed by Suffolk County Police

Update: September 2012:
Family, friends, and supporters of Kevin Callahan are invited to a Candlelight Vigil in Selden, on Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 7pm. There is a FaceBook Event Page: here.

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Kevin Callahn was killed by Suffolk County Police


Kimberly writes:

Kevin Callahan was killed by Suffolk County Police on September 20, 2011. It is now January 5, 2012. Today is the day that Kevin’s family will erect his tombstone. They bury their son with a heavy heart, and many unanswered questions.

The Suffolk County Police have yet to give the community and citizens of Suffolk County enough information to understand what happened the day Kevin Callahan died. Suffolk County Government needs to come clean, and give a full account to the press and the public. Only then can we know the mistakes made by our police, and know that they have the understanding and fortitude to fix those mistakes for the future.

Members of Kevin Callahan’s family are entitled by law to a copy of Kevin’s autopsy results. Though, the old Suffolk County Government has withheld that report and any substantial information for many months. And, a new request has not produced results.

People who care about Kevin Callahan have set up a FaceBook site for the community to help keep track of this injustice to Kevin, and this important issue to our community. Stand Up For Kevin FaceBook Page.

Here is a plea for help from the FaceBook page:

Kevin John was murdered by police officers on the morning of September 20th, 2011. In his own home and unarmed – Kevin’s life was wrongfully taken from him and also from his family and friends. Kevin is now unable to stand up for himself so this leaves us with a job, to stand up for what Kevin can not and what so many others can no longer do…

Below is some legal background which shows that Suffolk County must give the family the autopsy. What can you do as an elected official, constituent of an elected official,journalist, letter-writer, and/or activist to help get answers for Kevin’s family and our community?

A letter concerning a different request for autopsy records. This letter shows the legal reasoning that asserts that Kevin Callahan’s family is entitled to be provided with a copy of Kevin Callahan’s autopsy:

Committee on Open Government
Department of State [New York]

April 14, 1997

Mr. Dennis N. Hawthorne, Sr.
Oswego County District Attorney/Coroner
Public Safety Center
38 Churchill Road
Oswego, NY 13126
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the information presented in your correspondence.
Dear District Attorney/Coroner Hawthorne:
I have received your letter of March 25 addressed to William Bookman, Chairman of the Committee on Open Government. As indicated above, the staff of the Committee is authorized to respond on its behalf.
In your capacity as counsel for the New York State Association of County Coroners and Medical Examiners, you have requested an advisory opinion concerning public access to the records of the investigation of a death under the Freedom of Information Law.
Notwithstanding the provisions of §677(3)(b) of the County Law, you wrote that you have been receiving requests for the records in question with increasing frequency from civil plaintiff’s attorneys and newspaper reporters. You added that in some instances, the files may include police investigation reports that are requested after an investigation has been closed.
From my perspective, rights of access to the records described in §677 of the County Law are governed by that statute rather than the Freedom of Information Law. In this regard, I offer the following comments.
First, as a general matter, the Freedom of Information Law is based upon a presumption of access. Stated differently, all records of an agency are available, except to the extent that records or portions thereof fall within one or more grounds for denial appearing in section 87(2)(a) through (i) of the Law. Although that statute provides broad rights of access, the initial ground for denial, §87(2)(a), pertains to records that “are specifically exempted from disclosure by state or federal statute.”
One such statute is §677 of the County Law, which refers to autopsy reports and related records. As you are aware, subdivision (3), paragraph (b) of that provision states that:
“Such records shall be open to inspection by the district attorney of the county. Upon application of the personal representative, spouse or next of kin of the deceased to the coroner or the medical examiner, a copy of the autopsy report, as described in subdivision two of this section shall be furnished to such applicant. Upon proper application of any person who is or may be affected in a civil or criminal action by the contents of the record of any investigation, or upon application of any person having a substantial interest therein, an order may be made by a court of record, or by a justice of the supreme court, that the record of that investigation be made available for his inspection, or that a transcript thereof be furnished to him, or both.”
Based upon the foregoing, the Freedom of Information Law in my opinion is inapplicable as a basis for seeking or obtaining an autopsy report or other records described in §677, for the ability to obtain such records is based solely on §677(3)(b). In my view, only a district attorney and the next of kin of the deceased have a right of access to records subject to §677; any others would be required to obtain a court order based on demonstration of substantial interest in the records.
Second, as I understand §677, it pertains to the autopsy report and the “writings” of the coroner or medical examiner. I do not believe that it includes records prepared by a police department, for example, that come into the possession of a coroner or medical examiner. Those records, in my view, would be subject to the Freedom of Information Law, i.e., they would be available or deniable in whole or in part in conjunction with the grounds for denial appearing in §87(2) of that statute.
Lastly, while §677(3)(b) may grant limited rights of access, there is nothing in that statute or the Freedom of Information Law that would prohibit a coroner or medical examiner from disclosing records subject to §677. As such, coroners or medical examiners may and often do disclose various aspects of those records.
I hope that I have been of assistance. Should any further questions arise, please feel free to contact me.
Sincerely,
Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director
RJF:jm

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Some background information and links to other stories at onthewilderside: here.

Kevin Callahan of Selden: 1985-2011

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Action Update April 2012: A member of Kevin Callahan’s extended family pointed me to a march, posted at the Justice for Kenny website: here.

On April 14, 2012 at 10am in Bay Shore/5th Avenue, there will be a march for justice, dedicated to the victims of police brutality at the hands of the Suffolk County Police: Kenny Lazo, Kevin Callahan, Brenda Gaines.

3 Responses

  1. […] Background information at onthewilderside: here. […]

  2. Suffolk police and law makers never do anything when it comes to it’s citizens or it police or higher ups. They think just because we are closed of in a way, from the rest of N.Y. that they can do whatever they want, also, they lie so much, they never get charged with anything they do, and don’t leave it up to a judge in Suffolk county judge, because we all know they will side with the officers, as they always do, as if they are ALWAYS right!

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