Judge orders Cobb sheriff to release files on inmate deaths

A Cobb County Superior Court judge has ordered Sheriff Neil Warren to give an Atlanta television news station records of two inmates who died at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center.

Judge A. Gregory Poole on Wednesday granted WXIA-TV’s request for Warren and the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office to produce case files concerning the deaths of Reginald Wilson and Bradley Emory. The records were previously released to other media outlets, but not WXIA-TV, an NBC affiliate.

Another hearing will be held at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 27 via Zoom to determine if the sheriff’s office has more files in the Emory and Wilson cases that should be released and whether information on the death of another inmate, Stephanie McClendon, can continue to be withheld due to an ongoing internal investigation.

Attorneys for the Cobb County did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Derek Bauer, attorney for WXIA, said the news station is disappointed that it had to file a lawsuit to get records of inmate death investigations “that had been closed for more than a year.”

“But we are grateful the court heard our petition on an expedited basis, and believe the quick decision reflects the court’s commitment to timely enforcement of Georgia’s open records law when it counts the most – in an election season,” he said. "We look forward to the Sheriff’s Office’s prompt compliance with the court’s order to produce the records.

WXIA-TV, known to viewers as 11Alive News, last month filed a lawsuit against Warren and the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office’s records custodian for allegedly refusing to produce case files for the three inmates.

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Since 2004, 51 inmates have died at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center, the lawsuit states. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported that nine of those detainees have died since December 2018: Wilson, Emory, Jessie Myles, William Kocour, Steven Davis, Kevil Wingo, Christopher Hart, McClendon and an unidentified woman whose cause of death has not been released.