May 19, 1997

In re: Toni Parrish/Justice Cabinet, Medical Examiner Branch

Open Records Decision

In a letter to the Attorney General's Office, dated April 18, 1997, and received April 21, 1997, Toni Parrish maintained that his request for a copy of an autopsy report had not been honored. The original request was dated February 12, 1997, and was sent to Dr. Mark LeVaughn at the Regional Medical Center in Madisonville, Kentucky.

Toni Parrish received a letter from David W. Jones, Executive Director, State Medical Examiner's Office, dated April 14, 1997, requesting additional information relative to the document sought, including the reason for the request. Parrish sent a letter to Dr. Mark LeVaughn setting forth the additional information requested by David Jones. This letter was dated April 18, 1997, the same date as that on his letter of appeal to the Attorney General's Office.

This office received a "Response of the Justice Cabinet," dated April 28, 1997, a copy of which was sent to Toni Parrish. The Cabinet said that the request was sent to the wrong person and was nonspecific in nature. In addition, the Cabinet maintained that once the request was directed to the proper party, and after a diligent search, the requested document was located and sent to Toni Parrish.

We presume Toni Parrish has received the document in question as a copy of the Cabinet's response was sent to him and he has not denied receiving the autopsy report.

The Cabinet's response contained a paragraph referring to the "unwarranted privacy invasion by accessing autopsies at the request of anyone" and the requirement of the Medical Examiner's Branch requiring a demonstration of "some legitimate connection to the autopsy requested before honoring the request."

This office has said on a number of occasions, most recently in 97-ORD-68, copy enclosed, that pursuant to KRS 61.878(1)(h) and KRS 17.150(2) an autopsy report is exempt from mandatory public disclosure when a criminal prosecution is contemplated and until the prosecution is completed or a decision is made to take no action in the matter. However, if the criminal prosecution involving the autopsy report has been completed the report would then be subject to public inspection.

In addition, in OAG 89-79, copy enclosed, at page three, this office said that a person requesting to inspect public records does not have to state any reason as to why he wants to see those records and he does not have to show or establish any particular interest in the subject matter of those records.

Thus, while the public agency apparently has made the autopsy report available to the requesting party, the public agency cannot require a person to state why he wants to inspect a particular record and an autopsy report is a public record if the criminal prosecution involving that autopsy report has been completed.

A party aggrieved by this decision may appeal it by initiating action in the appropriate circuit court pursuant to KRS 61.880(5) and KRS 61.882. Pursuant to KRS 61.880(3), the Attorney General should be notified of any action in circuit court, but should not be named as a party in that action or in any subsequent proceeding.

A. B. Chandler III

Attorney General

Thomas R. Emerson

Assistant Attorney General


Copies of this decision

have been distributed to:

Toni Parrish #116783

Western Kentucky Correctional Complex

P.O. Box 5000

Eddyville KY 42038-5000

Lucy B. Richardson

Deputy General Counsel

Justice Cabinet

Bush Building Second Floor

403 Wapping Street

Frankfort KY 40601