Committee rules detained suspect’s mug shot must be released
UTAH–Juab County sheriff David Carter must release the mug shot of 20-year-old James Penrod to KSL-TV in Salt Lake City, the Utah State Records Committee ruled in a 3-2 decision in mid-February.
Penrod has been held in the Juab County Jail in Nephi since September in connection with multiple counts of child sexual abuse, dealing in material harmful to a minor and sodomy of a minor.
KSL-TV reporter Robert Walz asked the Records Committee to review his request for the mug shot after Sheriff Carter refused to give him access to it. The sheriff said that broadcast of the picture could jeopardize Penrod’s safety in the jail.
Carter told the records committee that jail inmates who had learned of the reasons for Penrod’s booking had already threatened him, and that Penrod had spent time in isolation for his protection until those inmates had been moved out of the jail. Many of the inmates in Nephi are held there pending trial on drug trafficking charges.
The attorney for KSL told the committee that the public already had seen news stories concerning the charges against Penrod and that the mug shot would not add to the danger he faced. He also pointed out that police agencies in that part of Utah generally make mug shots available.
Although requesters may choose to have the State Records Committee review denials of their requests either instead of or before going to court, the committee has rarely ruled in favor of requesters. The committee, created by the state legislature and composed of representatives of both private sector and governmental interests, is required to weigh considerations of public interest against the need for use of the exemptions to the open records law. Sheriff Carter had invoked the exemption for records which, if disclosed, could lead to the disruption of a corrections facility. (Utah State Records Committee vote, February 17, 1998; Media Attorney: Jeffrey Hunt, Salt Lake City)