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Georgia Death Row Prisoner Not Afforded Evidence To Litigate Case

Georgia death row prisoner Ellis Felker appealed by way of mandamus a 1996 court ruling that the Houston County District Attorney (DA) complied with the production of records under the Open Records Act (Act). Additional materials were discovered last minute but their viewing was denied. The court affirmed denial on appeal.

Felker's attorney requested all documents for investigation and copying. His investigator reviewed the files. Several months later his attorney again requested to view the files, including access to files of witnesses which included video and audio taped hypnosis sessions. The DA only responded two weeks later by telling them that the copies which were requested were ready. Felker filed suit under the Act to obtain the tapes and attorney's fees and costs. The trial court set an execution date for Felker and he sought mandamus. He claimed that the DA's failure to comply with his Act request denied him a full and fair opportunity to litigate his case.

The Supreme Court of Georgia held that the records' custodian was not obligated to locate, inspect, and produce the documents and that the DA's compliance was fulfilled by merely granting reasonable access to the documents. The court further held that Felker should have requested to view the tapes sooner and that no abuse of discretion existed for not awarding fees and costs and affirmed judgment. See: Felker v. Lukemire, 267 Ga. 296, 477 S.E.2d 23 (1996).

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Related legal case

Felker v. Lukemire