Last summer I requested access to the Utah Department of Corrections’ records regarding Ted Bundy’s 1976 escape attempt from the Utah State Prison, any incident reports, and correctional officers’ logs regarding Bundy specifically. I received the mugshots seen in a previous post, but was denied any other records. The Department cited “a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” as the reason for their denial. I am appealing this decision, and my hearing before the Utah State Records Committee in Salt Lake City is on January 9, 2020.
Frankly, I think this justification is ridiculous for the very obvious reason that Ted Bundy has been dead for nearly 31 years now. It is my contention, as has been generally upheld by the federal courts, that the dead do not have a right to personal privacy. Federal courts look only to common law privacy protections to determine whether a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request should be denied under a privacy exception, and thus FOIA generally does not protect posthumous privacy interests. The state of Utah has no statute providing for post-mortem privacy beyond common law and does not extend any clear rights of personal identity privacy to the deceased beyond property rights. Therefore, there is no legal reason for these records regarding a dead individual to be withheld.
Additionally, Utah code allows the release of records typically classified as “private” when there is significant public interest in the subject matter. There is obviously public interest in Bundy, as he is an infamous public figure. I would like to make this point especially clear, and to do so I have created a petition which I am hoping you will sign. This will help the Committee see the level of public interest and enthusiasm that exists for releasing the records. If approved and the records become available, I will of course share the results of my inquiry on this blog.
Please sign here before January 9, 2020: http://chng.it/dwJTXRtR2L. If you would like to write a letter instead, please reference Appeal Request #2019-99 and write to:
Gina Proctor, State Records Committee
346 S. Rio Grande
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
or email gproctor(at)utah.gov