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Arkansas paper drops suit over access to jail records

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  1. Freedom of Information
Routine delays in the court system have prompted the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to drop its pursuit of jail records for a suspect in the slaying of a…

Routine delays in the court system have prompted the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to drop its pursuit of jail records for a suspect in the slaying of a Little Rock news anchor.

A judge in the case had stopped the newspaper from accessing the visitor logs of suspect Curtis Vance, sealing them even though the documents were considered public under state law. The newspaper took the case to Arkansas’s highest court, bypassing an intermediate court.

The high court told the newspaper the intermediate court had to first hear the case. But on Dec. 29 the newspaper withdrew its lawsuit altogether.

The Democrat-Gazette quoted managing editor David Bailey saying the lawsuit was dropped “because the case likely wouldn’t be decided fast enough to have any impact on Vance’s case, with the possibility that, given the length of a likely appeal, Vance might have gone to trial before the lawsuit is finally resolved.”

The newspaper went on: "Bailey said anyone who seeks to have public records hidden from view shouldn’t misunderstand the paper’s position — public records rightfully belong to the public — or its willingness to fight for that right.”