"The exact same privacy arguments were made and this court rejected them," McGinley said. "There's no reason to treat police officers different than a doctor or a lawyer."
Lanham said the State Police has never been required to release details of the investigations. State Police are accountable because they are required to release details of those investigations during civil litigation or as exculpatory evidence.
Any decision the Supreme Court takes in the case could set precedence in how the public learns about allegations of police conduct in the future. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case by the end of the year.
The State Police did not have an internal investigations unit until a 1995 state Supreme Court ruling forced them to.
In 1990, 17-year-old Billy Ray Casto, of Harts in Lincoln County, said Trooper Joe Parsons beat him with fists and a flashlight. A trooper in Parsons' detachment was assigned the case and soon found Casto's claims to be unsubstantiated.
Charleston lawyer Dan Hedges and Morgantown lawyer Franklin Cleckley went to the state Supreme Court on Casto's behalf.
The Supreme Court asked a criminal justice professor from Temple University, James J. Fyfe, to review the State Police's procedures when a trooper is accused of abuse. Fyfe recommended that outside groups and citizens participate in such investigations.
Supreme Court justices ignored that recommendation when they ruled on Casto's petition in 1995. In a unanimous, unsigned opinion, they ordered the State Police to ensure a thorough investigation of abuse allegations be conducted by a neutral party. The court refused to require a civilian review panel, saying the State Police superintendent would still make the ultimate decision.
@tag:Reach Travis Crum at travis.c...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.