News 03.05.08

Records request letter sent March 5, 2008


March 5, 2008


Following is a list of recipients to whom individual Open Records Act requests were issued today, followed by the full text of the letter formally requesting the documents:



Sam Howell, Director, Mississippi Department of Public Safety Office of Crime Laboratories

John R. Young, District Attorney for District 1 (Alcorn, Itawamba, Lee, Monroe, Pontotoc, Prentiss, Tishomingo Counties)

Cono Caranna, District Attorney for District 2 (Hancock, Harrison, and Stone Counties)

Ben Creekmore, District Attorney for District 3 (Benton, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Lafayette, Marshall, Union Counties)

Dewayne Richardson, District Attorney for District 4 (Leflore, Sunflower, Washington Counties)

Doug Evans, District Attorney for District 5 (Attala, Carroll, Choctaw, Grenada, Montgomery, Webster, Winston Counties)

Ronnie L. Harper, District Attorney for District 6 (Adams, Amite, Franklin, Wilkinson Counties)

Robert Shuler Smith, District Attorney for District 7 (Hinds County)

Mark Duncan, District Attorney for District 8 (Leake, Neshoba, Newton, Scott Counties)

Richard Smith, Jr., District Attorney for District 9 (Issaquena, Sharkey, Warren Counties)

E.J. (Bilbo) Mitchell, III, District Attorney for District 10 (Clarke, Kemper, Lauderdale, Wayne Counties)

Laurence Mellen, District Attorney for District 11 (Bolivar, Coahoma, Quitman, Tunica Counties)

Jon Mark Weathers, District Attorney for District 12 (Forrest, Perry Counties)

Eddie H. Bowen, District Attorney for District 13 (Covington, Jasper, Simpson, Smith Counties)

Dee Bates, Jr., District Attorney for District 14 (Lincoln, Pike, Walthall Counties)

Hal Kittrell, District Attorney for District 15 (Jefferson Davis, Lamar, Lawrence, Marion, Pearl River Counties)

Forrest Allgood, District Attorney for District 16 (Clay, Lowndes, Noxubee, Oktibbeha Counties)

John W. Champion, District Attorney for District 17 (DeSoto, Panola, Tallahatchie, Tate, Yalobusha Counties)

Anthony Buckley, District Attorney for District 18 (Jones County)

Anthony Lawrence, III, District Attorney for District 19 (George, Greene, Jackson Counties)

Michael Guest, District Attorney for District 20 (Madison, Rankin Counties)

James H. Powell, District Attorney for District 21 (Holmes, Humphreys, Yazoo Counties)

Alexander C. Martin, District Attorney for District 22 (Claiborne, Copiah, Jefferson Counties)



Following is text of letter sent individually to each recipient today:

This request is made under the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983, Miss. Code. Ann. §§ 25-61-1 to 25-61-17. The intent of the Act is clear: according to § 25-61-2, “providing access to public records is a duty of each public body.” To that end, the Act requires a “public body,”[1] such as your office, to permit any person “to inspect, copy or mechanically reproduce or obtain a reproduction”[2] of “public records”[3] in its possession.

Under the authority of the Act, we request a copy of any public record held by your office connected to autopsies conducted by Dr. Steven Hayne at any facility operated by the Mississippi Department of Public Safety’s Mississippi Crime Laboratory (MCL) system.[4] Such public records may include, but shall not necessarily be limited to, any document prepared by Dr. Hayne and any document that references Dr. Hayne, such as official reports of autopsies conducted by Dr. Hayne in MCL facilities and time logs showing Dr. Hayne’s presence in MCL facilities.

If you determine that all or some portion of a requested public record is excepted from the required disclosure, we request that you provide the portions of the requested information that are public, in keeping with § 25-61-9 of the Act.[5] If all or some portion of the requested public record is excepted from required public disclosure under a particular exception, please indicate the exception you believe is applicable. If you rely on a previous determination, please include the applicable court decision or Attorney General’s opinion. If there is no such determination, please advise us of your request for such an opinion.

Please send any responsive public record to the following recipient:

Gabriel S. Oberfield

Research Analyst / Policy Department

The Innocence Project

100 Fifth Avenue – 3rd Floor

New York, NY 10011

info@innocenceproject.org

To the extent practicable, we request that you transmit such responsive public records to Mr. Oberfield’s electronic mail address. Moreover, if any such responsive public record exists in an electronic format, we request that you provide the record electronically. We gladly will accept all other responsive public records by way of conventional mail.

We are prepared to pay reasonable costs for copying, within the guidelines set by § 25-61-7 (1) of the Act. We appreciate your attention to this request and expect to hear from your office within 14 days, as required under § 25-61-5 of the Act.[6] Thank you for your time and attention.

Sincerely,

Peter Neufeld, Esq.

Co-Director

The Innocence Project

New York, NY

Tucker Carrington, Esq.

Director

Mississippi Innocence Project

University, MS

[1] § 25-61-3 (a) of the Act defines a “public body” as: any department, bureau, division, council, commission, committee, subcommittee, board, agency and any other entity of the state or a political subdivision thereof, and any municipal corporation and any other entity created by the Constitution or by law, executive order, ordinance or resolution.

[2] § 25-61-5 (1).

[3] "§ 25-61-3 (b) of the Act defines a “public record” as all books, records, papers, accounts, letters, maps, photographs, films, cards, tapes, recordings or reproductions thereof, and any other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, having been used, being in use, or prepared, possessed or retained for use in the conduct, transaction or performance of any business, transaction, work, duty or function of any public body, or required to be maintained by any public body.

[4] The MCL is described at the following URL:

http://www.dps.state.ms.us/dps%5Cdps.nsf/Divisions/cl?OpenDocument

(last visited March 3, 2008).

[5] According to § 25-61-9 (2): If any public record which is held to be exempt from disclosure pursuant to this chapter contains material which is not exempt pursuant to this chapter, the public body shall separate the exempt material and make the nonexempt material available for examination and/or copying as provided for in this chapter (emphasis added). As such, you may redact material from a public record only to the extent that such a redaction shields “exempt” information from disclosure. The rest of the public record must be produced.

[6] According to § 25-61-5 (1): No public body shall adopt procedures which will authorize the public body to produce or deny production of a public record later than fourteen (14) working days from the date of request for the production of such record.

 

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