The family of a man killed in 2015 says Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is violating the state’s public records law by refusing to release evidence from the case.
Vetta Holland King-Scott, the mother and representative of the estate, filed a lawsuit against IMPD in June 2020 to make IMPD turn over evidence in the case and pay for legal costs. The department says it’s within its rights to withhold certain records.
King-Scott’s son, Morgan Hart, was killed March 17, 2015, in the 2600 block of Hawthorne Lane on the east side. He was 27. At the time, police said the shooting appeared to stem from a domestic violence incident.
The lawsuit calls for IMPD to turn over all of the evidence it still has, but the main thing King-Scott wants is a thumb drive that contains security camera footage from a neighbor who lived two houses away from where Hart was killed.
King-Scott doesn’t believe Hart was killed in self-defense. She and other family members believe they can make their case with the video evidence IMPD won’t give up.
IMPD representatives said the department won’t provide information about a particular case. They also said video footage and pictures usually remain within a case file even after the case is closed.
King-Scott’s attorney, Johnny Ulmer, filed his first request to receive the police report, along with “any memos, notes, drawings, videos, tapes, and diagrams of the crime scene” in March 2019, court documents show.
IMPD denied the request, citing a section of the Access to Public Records Act that gives law enforcement agencies discretion to withhold investigatory records, defined in the act as “information compiled in the course of the investigation of a crime.”
The state’s Public Access Counselor, Luke Britt, wrote in an advisory opinion, included in the lawsuit, that the investigatory records exception doesn’t apply to the records in this case and recommended IMPD release the requested records.
“IMPD’s response in this case is cursory to the point of being deficient,” he wrote. “Stated differently, the department’s response could have just as easily been: ‘the records are investigatory records because we said so.’ That approach does not comport with the letter or the spirit of the law.”
Ulmer asked IMPD to reconsider its decision, but the department denied the request again.
The correspondence is included in the lawsuit, which was filed in Marion County Superior Court Civil Division 14. (The case is now in Division 13.)
Ulmer responded that the case didn’t result in any criminal indictments and noted the department did return items such as Hart’s cell phone and clothing.
IMPD’s attorney filed the department’s response to the lawsuit in August 2020 and in it said the statute of limitations on murder hasn’t expired.
“You should not do this to nobody’s mother, sister or anything,” King-Scott said in an interview, “because, one, you’re not respecting nobody, and two, you’re not treating nobody right.”
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.