Utah Department of Corrections gives 74 cases a second look after mishandled evidence prompts a records request review

| Courtesy Steven Crutcher

In a review of almost 3,000 record requests, the Utah Department of Corrections (DOC) identified 74 active cases that needed a closer look to ensure they were handled appropriately, a spokeswoman said Sunday.

Attorneys for killer Steven Douglas Crutcher recently found that the department had withheld nearly 1,600 pages of medical records, even after 6th District Judge Wallace Lee had ordered that they be turned over, prompting the review. In Crutcher’s case, the discovery led prosecutors to withdraw their intent to seek the death penalty and he instead was sentenced in March to a prison term of life without parole.

DOC Executive Director Rollin Cook has said a list of medications prescribed to Crutcher had been provided to the inmate’s attorneys but that it did not include all the dates and times he received the medications due to a “misinterpretation” of the judge’s order. After Lee said he was “beyond angry” about Corrections workers withholding evidence and would ask the governor for an investigation, officials started reviewing court orders, subpoenas and requests under the Utah Government Records Access and Management Act from the past several years.

Kaitlin Felsted, DOC public information officer, said among 2,708 requests, the department identified 74 active cases involving medical records. Officials at this time did not pursue any nonactive cases, she said.

Officials contacted attorneys in the 74 cases to see if they need additional documents and all but 12 have been resolved, Felsted said.

Steve Gehrke, DOC director of administrative services, said none of the attorneys have needed any additional documents so far.

The department also held two separate training sessions with its records contacts “to ensure everyone understands the importance and has the ability to be thorough and reliable in gathering records,” Gehrke said.

In addition, he said, every division and bureau was asked to create master checklists of all records they maintain so there is no question “all records” have been checked and provided in every applicable instance.

Crutcher, 36, admitted last year that he killed 62-year-old Roland Cardona-Gueton inside their shared cell at the Gunnison prison in 2013. Defense attorney Edward Brass told Lee that the documents he sought “went to the heart” of his client’s defense at trial, and it was important to know what kind of medical treatment and medications Crutcher had received around the time of his cellmate’s death.