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Open Records Law provides basis for death row inmate's reprieve

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Open Records Law provides basis for death row inmate's reprieve09/23/96 GEORGIA--On the eve of his execution, convicted killer Ellis Wayne…

Open Records Law provides basis for death row inmate’s reprieve

09/23/96

GEORGIA–On the eve of his execution, convicted killer Ellis Wayne Felker was given a 40-day stay by the state Supreme Court so that a lower court could determine if government officials violated the state Open Records Laws when they delayed providing Felker records he had requested more than a year ago.

Felker was found guilty of the 1981 murder of a 19-year-old college student. In September 1995, after Felker exhausted appeals based on trial evidence, his attorneys requested access to a number of records and documents relating to the murder under the state Open Records Law. County officials did not respond and the request was repeated in March, again with no response. Felker’s attorneys filed a complaint in court in May, but a hearing was not called until four days before his scheduled execution on September 10. At that hearing, Superior Court Judge L.A. McConnell granted a four-day stay of execution to allow the state officials to search a storage room for the records Felker had requested.

Four boxes of records along with a plastic trash bag containing evidence were found. Felker’s attorneys requested McConnell delay the execution again so that they could review the records and evidence, but the request was denied.

On September 13, the day before the scheduled execution, the Georgia Supreme Court overruled the lower court’s denial of the request for postponement. The high court found the decision inadequate because it did not make a determination as to whether the state officials had complied with the state Open Records Law. McConnell must make that determination and submit a new order by early October. Felker’s attorneys say they will use the time to review the newly found material. (State v. Felker; Defense Counsel: Mike Mears, Atlanta)