says The claim that releasing a jail inmate's photograph would jeopardize his safety is not a valid reason to withhold what should be a public document, a state committee has ruled.
On Feb. 17, the State Records Committee ordered Juab County to turn over the jail booking photo of Nephi resident James W. Penrod, 20, to KSL-TV (Ch. 5).Penrod pleaded guilty and mentally ill Thursday to three felony counts stemming from sexual abuse of a 13-year-old boy.
KSL-TV requested Penrod's photo under the Government Records Access Management Act but the news organization's request was denied. Juab County authorities said they feared that if Penrod's photo was shown on television, other inmates at the Juab County Jail might assault him or start a riot.
The television station successfully appealed the denial to the records committee and received the photograph March 5.
"It just seemed to us that (Penrod) was being treated differently than other inmates around the state," said Jeff Hunt, attorney for KSL-TV. "Jail booking photos are routinely asked for and released by jail authorities."
In addition, Hunt said, photographs are important so that the public can more accurately identify an accused criminal. Confusion could arise from several people having the same name as a person who is booked into jail, he said.
Juab County Attorney David Leavitt said he was reluctant for the photo to be released because he wanted to ensure a fair trial for Penrod and avoid identifying victims in what has been a very difficult case for this small community. Sheriff Dave Carter feared that broadcasting Penrod's photo might cause a safety risk at the jail, Leavitt said.
Although Juab County was forced to acquiesce, Leavitt said he learned a lot about GRAMA. When Penrod's attorney asked Judge Lynn W. Davis to seal court files and not allow distribution of a pornographic letter Penrod wrote, Leavitt objected.
Davis said he would not seal the court files, and that the Juab County Attorney's office could release the letter at its discretion.