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California death row inmate wins fight for records

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A death row inmate won his public records fight against the San Diego district attorney's office when a state appeals court recently ruled that he can have access to documents for his own investigation into the role race may play in how cases like his are prosecuted.

LaTwon Weaver was convicted in the fatal shooting of a jewelry store owner in the city of Vista in 1992.

The district attorney's office had denied his request for documents related to charges against homicide suspects in San Diego County between 1977 and 1993, U-T San Diego reported Saturday (http://bit.ly/1fK7fFt ). Weaver also requested court filings that might show that the district attorney's office prosecuted capital cases selectively.

Prosecutors argued that the documents can't be released because they are investigatory files, their disclosure would violate the privacy of hundreds of defendants and victims, and Weaver's request was overly burdensome.

The county said it would take an employee a full workweek to identify the documents, with an estimated cost of $3,400.

In an opinion published last week, a panel of judges ruled that charging documents filed publicly in court are not investigatory, unless they have been sealed, and therefore should be released.

The judges also rejected prosecutors' arguments about privacy and the scope of the request. The panel wrote that “there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in documents required to be filed in homicide cases” and that state law doesn't say public records requests must not impose a burden on a government agency.

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Information from: U-T San Diego, http://www.utsandiego.com

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