Oklahoma Lawmakers File Lawsuit Seeking Release of Communication Documents in Death Row Inmate’s Clemency Hearing

Duncan, Oklahoma – Two Oklahoma lawmakers have filed a lawsuit against District 6 District Attorney Jason Hicks, seeking access to communications related to the clemency hearing of death row inmate Richard Glossip. Representatives Justin Humphrey and Kevin McDugle filed the lawsuit on December 20 in Stephens County District Court. The lawmakers are requesting the release of documents that outline the communications between Hicks and other members of the District Attorney Council, as well as reimbursement of attorney fees.

Hicks, who oversees Caddo, Grady, Jefferson, and Stephens Counties, refused to provide the records in response to an open records request made in May. He argued that the communications were personal and exempt from public inspection. However, the lawsuit highlights that Hicks submitted a mileage reimbursement form and spoke to a reporter about the case in his official capacity. Attorney Corbin Brewster, representing the lawmakers, argues that this contradicts Hicks’ claim that the communications were personal.

Humphrey and McDugle allege that Hicks continued to deny their follow-up requests for the records. They reference a 2009 opinion from former Attorney General Drew Edmondson, which stated that emails, text messages, and other electronic communications related to public business are subject to the Oklahoma Open Records Act. Brewster points out that other District Attorney Council members produced records in response to similar requests, suggesting that the communications should be considered open records.

In response to the lawsuit, Hicks did not provide a comment. However, in a written response filed on January 5, Sixth District Assistant District Attorney Charles L. Sifers argued that the case should be dismissed. Sifers claimed that the lawmakers used an out-of-state attorney to make the records request, suggesting that they lacked legitimate merit or right to bring the action under the Open Records Act.

Humphrey, who chairs the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, explained that he and McDugle made the initial request out of suspicion that district attorneys were coordinating to expedite Glossip’s execution. Both lawmakers have been vocal advocates for Glossip’s claim of innocence, appearing on national television and organizing press conferences to support his release from death row. Glossip’s execution has been stayed since May pending a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The lawmakers hope that their lawsuit will bring transparency to the actions of the district attorneys involved in Glossip’s case. Humphrey has previously faced backlash from the District Attorneys Council for alleging that district attorneys were illegally collecting probation fees. Hicks, who has been an opponent of delays in administering capital punishment, was elected as District 6 District Attorney in 2011.

The lawsuit against District Attorney Hicks seeks to obtain communications related to Richard Glossip’s clemency hearing. The lawmakers are aiming for transparency and have been vocal advocates for Glossip’s release. Hicks has not yet responded to the lawsuit, but previously expressed his opposition to delays in capital punishment.