Saturday, May 8, 2010

Judge orders state to release records on death of baby that died at meth lab while in state custody

A Franklin Circuit Court judge has ruled that records on a baby who died after drinking drain cleaner should be open to the public.

Judge Philip Shepherd said there is no reason why records on 20-month-old Kayden Daniels, who died May 30 at an alleged methamphetamine lab, should not be released. The baby's father, Bryan Daniels, has been charged with murder and making meth. Both the child and his 14-year-old mother, Alisha Branham, had been placed in the state foster-care program for abused and neglected children.

The records were requested by the Lexington Herald-Leader and The Courier-Journal, but the request was denied by the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The newspapers appealed, and the state attorney general's office upheld the cabinet's decision. Both agencies were wrong, the judge said.

"While it should go without saying, it perhaps must be spelled out in the context of this case: It is not unwarranted for the public, and the press, to want to know what happened when a 20-month-old child in the care and legal custody of the Commonwealth of Kentucky winds up dead after drinking toxic substances in a meth lab," Shepherd said in his ruling.

The judge also said that the state cabinet has a culture that "seeks to avoid public scrutiny." But such secrecy leads to covering up problems, not fixing them, he said. A full text of the ruling can be found at

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