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FOI Law requires photocopies, not reprints, of photos

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FOI Law requires photocopies, not reprints, of photos

  • An appeals court ruled in early July that providing a copy of a photograph fulfills an agency’s requirements under the state’s open records law and it does not have to provide photographic reproductions to requesters.

July 24, 2003 — James Pennington, a former Amherst businessman convicted in 1993 of murder, will not be able to obtain photographic reproductions of autopsy pictures in response to his Freedom of Information Law request to the Erie County medical examiners office, the state court of appeals in Buffalo ruled July 3.

The court held that, although a photograph is a “record” within the meaning of New York’s Freedom of Information Law, and the requirement that agencies provide copies or reproductions, does not require reprints to be made.

The court ruled that “unlike computer and electronic records, which may be requested in a specific format, photocopies of photographs are ‘in a reasonably accessible form’ and thus respondents have no obligation to accommodate a requester’s preference.”

Pennington claimed that state police and prosecutors tampered with evidence in his case and that the autopsy performed was flawed, resulting in an inaccurate presentation of evidence at his trial.

He sought the autopsy photos as part of his ongoing attempt to get his murder charges overturned. He claimed that forensic information was suppressed at his original trial and that he needed a photo reproduction to show that the Erie County District Attorney kept secret certain autopsy information.

In his brief, Pennington said that the police department should make a reasonable effort to provide him with a photographic reproduction.

(Pennington v. Clark) GS

© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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