Thursday, March 30, 2017

Oregon board refuses weekly's request for public records about release of a murder suspect

A memorial for the man killed in a crash
with the suspect. (Photo by Les Zaitz)
After a murder suspect confessed to feigning insanity for 20 years to avoid a prison cell, the Oregon Psychiatric Security Review Board is "defying a state order that it release public records to the Malheur Enterprise and intends to sue the weekly newspaper to keep the records secret," the Enterprise reports. "The state board wants to keep confidential certain records it used in deciding last December to discharge from state custody Anthony W. Montwheeler, 49."

Since 1996, Montwheeler has been under the Security Review Board's jurisdiction after being found guilty but insane in an earlier kidnapping case, the Enterprise reports. The board released him "after learning in December that he had been faking his mental illness for 20 years. The Enterprise sought access to 15 of the 227 documents admitted as exhibits. The records included recent risk assessments of Montwheeler by state hospital officials. Under the Oregon Public Records Law, government records generally are open to the public. Exceptions allow agencies to keep some records confidential."

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has ordered the board to turn over the records sought by the Enterprise, but Security Review Board Executive Director Juliet Britton said in a Feb. 6 letter to the newspaper that "state and federal law prohibited the agency from releasing the documents. She also said that disclosing two documents would 'be an unreasonable invasion of a private citizen’s personal privacy'."

The day Montwheeler was released, state psychologist Brian Hartman warned the state board what might happen, co-owner Les Zaitz reports for the weekly. Hartman testified in December, “His risk of violence would be high and it would be most likely to target his intimate partner or other family member." Hartman was right. Three weeks after his release, "police say Montwheeler kidnapped and killed his ex-wife and then killed a Vale man and injured his wife in a collision as he was eluding police."

"Montwheeler now sits in the Malheur County Jail, charged with aggravated murder, assault, and kidnapping. He may face the death penalty. He declined an interview," Zaitz reports.

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