At the end of the Ludington City Council meeting I had five minutes to state my case as to why certain records concerning the disappearance of Baby Kate should be released. I cited law, including the laws they said supposedly supported their suppression (now that's alliteration!) of these records. Because I found out to my detriment on the previous appeal, that they strictly adhered to 5 minutes, I had to cut off the bracketed part in my speech in order to get my main points across. It didn't matter in the end, as they unanimously denied the request. Here was my prepared statement.
"On June 10, 2012 I requested through the FOIA records from an inactive investigation, namely:
Since the date June 26, 2011 to the present:
1) All interviews (recordings or transcripts) conducted with Ariel Courtland, alone or with others, by any LPD operative.
2) All written records received by any LPD operative from Ariel Courtland or delivered to Ariel Courtland from any LPD operative.
3) Any lie detector test results administered to Ariel Courtland in the LPD's possession.
4) Any written record now in the possession of the LPD received from any other agency investigating the Baby Kate disappearance, specifically dealing with Ariel Courtland's possible involvement.
The City originally denied these citing that they were part of a law-enforcement investigation, and this is what FOIA Coordinator Shay has presented to the City Council as his reason. Further input from the City Attorney has him being under the impression that the lie detector test results are further protected by law. I will address the idea that these are considered exempt by being investigatory records first.
Sec 13(b) of the FOIA, the exemption the FOIA Coordinator uses, has five parts, each of which must be addressed to consider whether the records should be available or are exempt. A public body may exempt investigating records compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that disclosure as a public record would do any of the following (five items):
[(i) Interfere with law enforcement proceedings.
(ii) Deprive a person of the right to a fair trial or impartial administrative adjudication.
(iii) Constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
(iv) Disclose the identity of a confidential source, or if the record is compiled by a law enforcement agency in the course of a criminal investigation, disclose confidential information furnished only by a confidential source.
(v) Disclose law enforcement investigative techniques or procedures.]
Chief Barnett said in a publicly released document: ""Previous speculation as to the involvement of the mother, Ariel Courtland, in the disappearance of Katherine Phillips is also not supported by the evidence. Extensive investigation into Ms. Courtland has been conducted by multiple law enforcement agencies. It has been concluded by investigators, and through judicial proceedings, that she did not have the time, means, or motive necessary, or that she has any knowledge of Baby Kate's whereabouts."
As such, she is officially not under investigation for any aspect of the present, ongoing murder investigation. This means that the disclosure of such records will not (i) interfere with law enforcement proceedings, (ii) deprive a person (Ms. Courtland) of the right to a fair trial, or (iv) disclose the identity of a confidential source or information.
Furthermore, the records could be suitably redacted/edited if they indeed contained information that would (iii) constitute an unwarranted invasion of Ms. Courtland's personal privacy or (iv) disclosed any law enforcement investigative techniques or procedures.
These redactions by the nature of the records and the status of Ariel Courtland as a non-suspect, should be minimal in nature, and the public records should be made available at once to the public, as per the FOIA. A blanket denial of all records, which is all that the people have received, is insufficient, and will be appealed beyond this venue if the City Council votes to deny the rights of the people.
Similarly, City Attorney Wilson, in consultation with Prosecuting Attorney Spaniola, is wanting to deny the lie detector results under a statute, MCL 338.1728. This says that: "(3) Any recipient of information, report or results from a polygraph examiner, except for the person tested, shall not provide, disclose or convey such information, report or results to a third party except as may be required by law". If the LPD or the City has in their possession these documents, they are "public records" (as we defined and discussed in my last appeal) and FOIA requires their disclosure by law if a written request is made for them.
In conclusion, the FOIA is pro-disclosure and exacts a duty on a public body to provide the people public records on request. As the FOIA puts forth in its first section: "It is the public policy of this state that all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and public employees, consistent with this act." If the City of Ludington refuses to follow Michigan's public policy by voting with the FOIA Coordinator to quash the release of these records owned by the public, they have become little more than a rogue element with continued disdain for the rights of individuals and their obligations as a home rule city of the State of Michigan."
"No Information for you!!!"
Beyond what he reported for the City's defense, Chief Barnett made the statement that "(there is) no definite resolution of what has happened to Baby Kate... It's an open investigation" Doesn't this contradict your public statement, Chief? Furthermore, Dick Wilson rambled over a few topics but here are my favorites:
"Just because someone is no longer a subject of investigation you can't rule out their testimony could deny someone the right to a fair trial" (so could having a crooked investigation)
"If there are two people acting together there is a conspiracy" (clarified that it may not have happened here)
"... potential to taint the jury pool." (this is a fishing expedition, my fly-away hair could do any of the above as well)
"It just makes sense we won't release polygraph records without the agreement of the one tested." (even if this were true, which it isn't, the one tested was there, and she wants them released-- but she can't even see them, because lawmen think she would spread it around. This is horsecrap!)
Here's the kicker from Florida who has FOIA rules just like Michigan, and this just came in today:
"George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer charged with murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, passed a lie detector test the day after the shooting — a fact some experts say may make it hard to get an unbiased jury and still leaves details of the incident unclear.
Florida prosecutors Tuesday released a written report that included results of a voice stress analysis — a lie detector test — with other reports and recordings. The release resulted from a court order after news organizations argued that prosecutors had withheld information that should be public."
Boo-yah. See you in Circuit Court , Chief.
What I don't get is if she has been cleared of any wrongdoing(and a press release was issued by Law Enforcement saying as such) why isn't info dealing with her(what it seems you asked for) part of public record......?
That's the hundred dollar question. Those who are in their late 40s and beyond should recall that it is not the crime that does you in, it's the cover-up.