Friday, May 27, 2011

Inmates lose open-records requests

The Attorney General’s office has upheld the denial of records in two separate cases involving inmates in state prison, ruling the requested documents were exempt under the state’s Open Records Act.

The office of Clifford R. Duvall, commonwealth attorney for Lewis and Greenup counties in northeastern Kentucky, denied Wayne C. Murphy’s request to view the transcripts of a grand jury proceeding. That record is exempt from release under the state’s Open Records Act and under court rules established by the Kentucky Supreme Court. The attorney general ruled that Duvall correctly denied the request.

Murphy, according to the Ashland Independent, was convicted in November 2006 of the rape and brutal bludgeoning of a video store manager in Russell in 2004. The records he sought involved his girlfriend, Tracy L. Chaffins, indicted as the lookout in the incident. Before her trial, she took her own life, according to police.

In a related opinion, the attorney general held that the Greenup County jailer had violated the Open Records Act by failing to respond to Murphy’s request for all records related to the incarceration of William D. Mollett. The opinion also noted that because Murphy is an inmate at Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex, the jailer could deny his request if Murphy did not have enough money in his account to cover the copy charges.

In a separate case involving an inmate, the attorney general’s office upheld the decision of the Kentucky State Penitentiary denying an open records request of inmate Anthony Sadler because of his inability to pay for copies of those records.

“The Open Records Act contains no provision for waiver of the prepayment requirements … and (the prison) did not violate the Act in denying Mr. Sadler’s request on the basis that he has insufficient funds in his inmate account to defray the cost of copies. The facility’s actions may work a hardship on Mr. Sadler but are consistent with the Open Records Act and the rule announced in Friend v. Rees,” decided by the state Court of Appeals in 1985.

The office also upheld the denial of a request for records of the Calloway Circuit Court Clerk, based upon a 1978 decision of the state Supreme Court that records held by the court system are not subject to legislative action. In 1998, the attorney general’s office interpreted that to mean court records are not subject to the Open Records Act.

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