Thursday, January 13, 2011

10th Cir. Upholds FOIA Exemption in Inmate Autopsy Photo Case

Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for...Image via WikipediaIn Prison Legal News v. Executive Office for United States Attorneys (Case No. 09-1511), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit this week upheld a federal district court's decision to exempt under the Freedom of Information Act [5 U.S.C. sec. 552] autopsy photos of a prisoner murdered by other inmates.

As reported by the Associated Press, the three-judge appellate panel said photos and video footage of  homicide victim Joey Jesus Estrella did not have to be produced in response to an FOIA request pursuant to 5 U.S.C. sec. 552(b)(7)(C), an exemption granted where disclosure "could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy," in this case, of the victim's family. Prison Legal News sought the material at issue as relevant to conditions at the prison.

Cousins Rudy & William Sablan are serving life sentences after being convicted of first-degree murder in the 1999 killing of Estrella. The information sought by Prison Legal News under the FOIA was used in the separate public trials of the Sablans in 2007 and 2008.  The journal is expected to appeal the 10th Circuit decision.

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