The LAPD Cannot Be Compelled To Release Information About Elliott Smith’s case.

About a month ago, following the advice of Michael Morisy (from Muckrock.com), I contacted the First Amendment Coalition’s Free Legal HOTLINE consultation service and just received an answer from one of their lawyers, last Thursday.

The Hotline gives free access to lawyers (First Amendment and government access specialists) in California at Bryan Cave, LLP, a major San Francisco-based law firm, ‘for questions about access to government records, to agency and local government meetings and to court documents and proceedings.’

Of course, I asked them about Elliott Smith’s case and about the possibility to have access to the information the police has never released – not even to the Smith family.

This is what David Greene, senior counsel in the firm’s San Francisco office, wrote to me:

‘Bryan Cave LLP is general counsel for the First Amendment Coalition and responds to FAC hotline inquiries.  In responding to inquiries, we can give general information regarding open government and freedom of speech issues but cannot provide specific legal advice or representations. I apologize for the delay in responding to your inquiry. 

The California Public Records Act, Government Code sections 6250 et seq., generally provides that the records of state and local agencies are open to inspection and copy upon request.  As you can imagine, however, there are numerous categories of records excluded from the Public Records Act. Among these exemptions is Government Code section 6254(f), which exempts all records in police investigative files, except that certain information regarding calls for assistance and arrest must be disclosed if contemporaneously requested.

So, unfortunately, there is nothing that compels the LAPD to disclose this information.

That being said, the exemptions to the Public Records Act are largely discretionary.  Thus the LAPD can release the records you seek if it so chooses.  So your best option is to see if you can convince the LAPD to release the records.

I hope that information is helpful.’

In short, records are open to the public according to this act, but there are many things which can be excluded, and in particular police files,… and ‘there isnothing that compels the LAPD to disclose this information.

But the police can choose to release it if we are convincing enough?? How can I convince the police if the family couldn’t? It is a never ending maze with no way out, every time we bang our head on a wall.

When I called the detective Morris a few years ago, he told me there were other reports beside the autopsy report, but what are they doing with them? Why didn’t they show them to the family? And why has the family not even been able to see the knife or the ‘suicide note’? I don’t know how to convince the police to release files they have been sitting on for the past 8 years. I need a new idea!

Originally published on Rock NYC (March 31 2012)

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