Release Ted Bundy's Utah Prison Records
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Utah State Records Committee, Appeal Request #2019-99
Professional archivist and researcher Tiffany Gilman is conducting research on the infamous serial killer Ted Bundy, and was previously denied access to records from both the Department of Corrections’ records manager and the Deputy Director. We've signed this petition to support her in her appeal to the State Records Committee to release these records.
Ms. Gilman requested Department records on Theodore Robert Bundy’s 1976 escape attempt from the Utah State Prison, any incident reports, and correctional officers’ logs regarding Bundy specifically. The Department of Corrections listed UCA § 63G-2-302(2)(d) as the reason for denying the release of these records, which states the following:
(2) The following records are private if properly classified by a governmental entity: (d) other records containing data on individuals the disclosure of which constitutes a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy
This denial for reasons of privacy is confusing because Mr. Bundy is dead. He was executed by the State of Florida on January 24, 1989. It is our contention, as has been generally upheld by the federal courts, that the dead do not have a right to personal privacy. Judicial justification for the termination of privacy rights at death is centered on two main points: firstly, the deceased can no longer be active agents, and secondly, the deceased are incapable of being harmed by invasion of privacy.
Federal courts have found that when a statute uses the term “person,” it refers to “a living human being” and does not provide a basis for a posthumous claim for violation of the statute or right at issue.). 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. As the state of Utah classifies the right to publicity and privacy as a personal right, post-mortem assertions of a right to privacy are generally not recognized due to the common law stipulation that personal rights only apply to the living.
In addition, Ted Bundy is an infamous public figure and there is a significant public interest in the disclosure of those records, as evidenced by this petition. Utah Code §63G-2-401(6), states that "the administrative officer may, upon consideration and weighing of the various interests and public policies pertinent to the classification and disclosure or nondisclosure, order the disclosure of information properly classified as private under §63G-2-302(2)."
Ms. Gilman is seeking relief in the form of the Department releasing the previously requested records related to Ted Bundy for the purpose of scholarly research. If the privacy concerns are related to other living individuals named in the documents, redaction should easily remedy this concern, so that the rest of the record may be released.
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