Even in the dark days following their son’s death, the Dyers tended to believe the police. Why wouldn’t they? Kathy, a civil engineer, and Robert, a teacher, were solid citizens.
And yet, they wondered: What were those marks on his arms — “chicken feet” scratches, Robert called them. Or what to make of the emergency room doctor’s notes saying it appeared Graham had been the victim of an assault? Seeking answers, the couple asked the Mesquite Police Department for their records of what happened that night.
But the department refused to release them — because, its lawyers explained, Texas law said it didn’t have to.
State law says a police agency isn’t required to turn over records for incidents that don’t result in a conviction. Graham, who’d been charged with assaulting a police officer after the confrontation, had died before his case could be litigated. So, the department reasoned, his records were confidential. Asked to weigh in on the dispute, then-Attorney General Greg Abbott agreed the Mesquite police could refuse the Dyers’s request.