Posts Tagged ‘death row’


FOI DAILY DOSE: FBI must confirm existence of death row docs, court orders redactions for previously open records

Court orders FBI to admit if it has docs requested by death row inmate

The FBI must disclose whether it has records requested by a death row inmate in Texas that could help exonerate him.

Lester Leroy Bower Jr., on death row for a quadruple homicide that occurred in Texas in 1983, alleges that three other men are the true killers, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

A U.S. appeals court ruled Tuesday that the FBI must admit whether it has the records requested by Bower under FOIA because the public’s right to know overrules the privacy interests of the men who may be linked to the murders.

The FBI’s initial reaction to the inmate’s 2008 FOIA requests was to issue a “Glomar” response, which doesn’t confirm or deny whether the records exist.

A Glomar response is allowed if disclosing the existence of a record would cause harm under a specific FOIA exemption. For example, in this case the FBI argued that it could use a Glomar response because to admit whether the records exist would cause an invasion of personal privacy that is unwarranted, as supported by FOIA exemptions 6 and 7(C).

The court’s Tuesday decision doesn’t require the FBI to actually release the requested records, which may fall under other FOIA exemptions. But the FBI must disclose whether the agency does or does not have the documents.

Historically open records in Conn. must be redacted, court says

The Supreme Court of Connecticut ruled Tuesday that state agencies must redact addresses for certain officials in town assessor property logs – records that have previously been available to the public in their entirety.

The court extended a state FOIA exemption that calls for the redaction of certain public officials’ addresses to the property logs.

This court decision could also be applied to many other kinds of record logs that have historically been unredacted – a move that could hurt state transparency efforts, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

The state Supreme Court reversed rulings by the state Freedom of Information Commission and a Connecticut trial court, which had ruled that town assessors’ “grand lists” of property records are required by law to be unredacted.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

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