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Court: Glasgow schools can see records, public can't

Harley Branham faces charges including involuntary manslaughter in the death of 17-year-old Kenneth Suttner.

A panel of judges has denied a special prosecutor's request to withhold evidence from the Glasgow School District in the case of a high school boy who killed himself being bullied.

The three-member panel of judges of the Western District Court of Appeals denied the request, which aimed to keep the district from seeing evidence from 17-year-old Kenneth Suttner's autopsy inquest.

The documents in question are transcripts from the autopsy. Suttner killed himself on Dec. 21, 2016 after being bullied for years, according to friends and family members. His boss at the Glasgow Dairy Queen, Harley Branham, has been charged with Involuntary Manslaughter, Aggravated Stalking, Assault, and Harrassment after the inquest found that she was the "primary actor" in the boy's death.

The inquest jury also found that the Glasgow School District was "negligent in failing to prevent bullying," opening the district up to civil action.

The writ, or request, was filed by special prosecutor April Wilson, who argued that Missouri law allows records to remain closed that might otherwise be subject to the Sunshine Law if there are pending criminal investigations in the matter at hand. She said that turning over the documents could potentially cause harm to victims or witnesses in the case, and should be protected by an exception in the Sunshine Law requirements of transparency.

The Glasgow School District, however, argued that since the inquest was a public meeting and the coroner is a 'public governmental body,' and since all of the information contained in the transcripts were already made available at the public inquest, the documents should be turned over. The district needs the information contained in the transcripts to help with its defense against potential civil suits.

On Tuesday, a three-member panel of judges from the Western District Court of Appeals ruled without comment in favor of the school district. However, the documents will become public records again if they are presented in open court in Branham's case.

Harley Branham has a preliminary hearing scheduled for next Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. in the Howard County Courthouse.


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