Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Judge refuses to make city turn over data in gun case

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A Hamilton County judge Tuesday refused to order the city of Cincinnati to turn over documents that gun manufacturers say might be evidence supporting the city's allegations that gun makers are responsible for the unauthorized ways criminals obtain firearms.

The city of Cincinnati is suing gun manufacturers over the issue.

Attorneys for the gun companies say that, despite their pleas, the city has failed to produce any statistics or reports to support its contentions.

In a motion filed last month, they asked Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman to order the city to comply with their requests.

"I'm not going to micromanage this case," the judge said Tuesday. "I'm not going to box (the city) in right now. I think we've got some perimeters set down. If they can't prove it, then that will be part of (a request for dismissal)."

The judge did get opposing sides to agree on the kinds of information that should be exchanged, such as shootings and homicides and make and model of the firearm used in the crimes. That information will be drawn from records kept between 1996-2001.

Attorneys representing the city said they had turned over some records from Cincinnati's police and fire departments, as well as basic forms used by the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to trace weapons used in city of Cincinnati crimes.

But there were other documents, containing the names of uncharged suspects, which the city wants kept from the public eye and the city solicitor's office has not decided on how these reports should be handled, said Michael Barrett, an attorney representing the city.

"The city keeps information in a different way than what they want," he added. "It's not our obligation to put (city information) in a different format. We can serve up what we can serve up. ... We will probably have to arrange for a file by file review for them on what they need."

The city sued the gun manufacturers and trade associations in 1999, but the suit was dismissed by a trial judge and an appeals court.

A June decision by the Ohio Supreme Court revived the suit. Justices said in their ruling that the issue was significant and should be tried.

Opposing sides return to court Jan. 9. A trial date has been set for Sept. 22, 2003.


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