Ohio Supreme Court Justice Charles Zimmerman ‘The Rule in Ohio is that public records are the peoples records and the officials in whose custody they happen to be are merely trustees for the people and therefore anyone may inspect such records at any time’
John Adams ‘Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among the people who have a right and a desire to know, but besides this they have a right, an indisputable, divine right to that most dreaded and envied king of knowledge, I mean of the characters and conduct of their rulers’…
(Quotes taken from the Ohio Sunshine Law 2013 Government Resource Manual written by OH AG Mike DeWine ‘a manual written Protecting Ohio Families’)
The Ohio Sunshine Laws of 2013 is a manual used by all Ohio Public Officials relating to the procedures/rules and laws concerning the keeping/maintaining/accessing of Public Records. These rules/laws (outlined in the manual) must be adhered to by ALL Courts/Officials within Ohio (subject to their own ‘local laws’).
Jermane Scott was sentenced to LIFE without Parole on Aggravated Murder/Robbery charges (crimes taking place in 1996) crimes which he has fiercely denied being guilty of throughout. His trial was a Capital Punishment/Death Penalty Specification Trial/Case. For the past 2 years numerous people (myself included) have repeatedly requested access to his FULL court files relating to his trial (these include complete trial transcripts/discovery list and ALL exhibits presented at trial). We wish to access this information because we are interested in his case and feel that it needs to be looked into more in-depth due to strong evidence suggesting Jermane Scott is innocent (of the Murder and Robbery charges). I would like to point out to the reader of this that I nor anyone else who has requested copies of his files (bar the attorney who requested copies of his files on behalf of Jermane in 2012) are ‘representing’ Jermane. We are NOT from a legal background, legal field. And we are not Jermane Scott’s ‘designee’s’. Therefore we are what is known as ‘General Public’ or ‘Public Citizens’ and have every lawful right to request/gain access and be supplied copies of Jermane Scott’s files by the Ohio Common Pleas Court and the Clerk of Courts. Unfortunately every attempt we have made to get access to these public record files has resulted in nothing or only partial success. At the foot of this blog I have attached a chronological list of ALL attempts to obtain copies of the FULL files giving dates and details of the courts responses thus far. It would be good to note that as per their own Ohio laws the Common Pleas Court and the Clerk of Courts MUST (by law) respond to ALL requests for Public Records within a reasonable time frame. As someone who has made a request more than 12 months ago and is STILL waiting for a response to that request I can confidently say this basic rule is NOT being adhered to by Clark County Public Office. Any denial of any request MUST be given with a full explanation for their reasons for denial and with details of the person with authority to deny the request. That denial can only be given IF it falls into an ‘exemption’ category of given specific exemption reasons (which are listed in the Ohio Sunshine Law manual and Local Rules and Procedures manual). Ohio Public Record Law states ‘ The public office may withhold or redact specific records that are covered by an exemption but is required to give the requester an explanation including legal authority for each denial’. Jermane Scott’s files are not sealed files nor do they fall into any category covered by any of the Ohio Records Laws exemption criteria/categories yet The County Clark Common Pleas court for reasons unknown don’t seem to want to let anyone access these files. I believe this to be a deliberate obstruction of public records. I am sharing this information with you because all other efforts to access these files have failed. No one seems to want to help. No one seems to care. No one seems to want to adhere to their own laws regarding public records. I find that quite ironic given the circumstances. To quote one public official when told we would be making this information public knowledge due to our frustration at being continually denied the right to this information we were told ‘Good Luck with that then’….. Ohio Sunshine Law written to ‘Protect Ohio Families’……
In March 2016 we were eventually successful in obtaining a large section of the court transcripts from the Common Pleas Court House relating to Case No. 96-CR-0657 however we still did not receive the files in FULL (the request was for the FULL 100% COMPLETE files). Two sections of transcripts were redacted without explanation given to us. Ohio Sunshine Law states Chapter 2 (14) (A) ‘If a public record contains information that is exempt from the duty to permit public inspection or to copy the public record the public office or person responsible for the public record shall make available all of the information within the public record that is not exempt. A public office may redact ONLY that part of a record subject to an exemption under the exemption laws (if part or all of a record fall under an exempt law/clause). Public Office must notify the requester of any redaction or make the redaction plainly visible. Public Office MUST provide the requester with an explanation including legal authority setting forth why the request was denied’ (a redaction of any information is classed as a denial). We received NO explanation for the 2 sections of files that were redacted, no reason or information regarding on whose authority and the sections redacted are in no way covered by any of their own exemption laws. When challenged as to why these sections were not sent The Court Reporter stated these sections (the Penalty Stage and the Verdict Stage of the transcripts) were ‘missing’ with no indication of why/how and if she planned on locating them. Also ALL the exhibits (evidence presented at his trial) were not sent to us and the same Court Reporter informed us ALL the exhibits (that is ALL the evidence presented in court during Jermanes DEATH PENALTY/CAPITA MURDER trial) were ‘LOST’. There seemed to be no concern by the court reporter or clerk of courts officials that evidence in a trial (exhibits) in their care were all missing and no apology or explanation was given of how these crucial pieces of evidence in a Death Penalty case had found themselves to be ‘lost ‘whilst in their care. It goes without saying also that no suggestion of an internal investigation into the whereabouts of these ‘lost’ items was being done or would be done. In fact we were told by a lady from the clerk of courts that the court reporter was ‘lucky’ to have got the copies of what we were given. We contacted the Clerk of Courts directly asking them for copies of the sections of the files that the Court Reporter at the Common Pleas Court no longer had and also for copies of the original exhibits which they would hold in their office/records system. Unfortunately the reply from the Clerk of Courts was that his office was ‘not responsible for fulfilling our request’. Again Ohio Public Records Laws state that the Clerk of Court MUST provide ALL requesters with their requested copies of Public Records and if a denial for a request is given this must be given with a full lawful explanation of why the denial has been given. The Clark County Local Rules (Record of Retention Schedule) Rule 1.13 clearly states that the Clerk of Courts DOES have the responsibility of allowing examination of public records and be in charge of making copies of public records on request. And that these requests MUST be met within a reasonable time period and within business hours. Ohio Sunshine Laws states it IS the responsibly of the Clerk of Courts to ‘maintain and preserve and keep public records on file for examination or access by general public at all times’. After challenging their response we were informed via email on the 25th April that our request for a copy of the Discovery List relating to Case No. 96-CR-0657 and the missing sections of transcripts (and exhibits) from the Clerk of Courts files was denied under the Ohio Revised Code (149.43(B) (8).
149.43 (B) (8) ‘A public office or person responsible for public records is not required to permit a person who is incarcerated pursuant to a criminal conviction or a juvenile adjudication to inspect or to obtain a copy of any public record concerning a criminal investigation or prosecution or concerning what would be a criminal investigation or prosecution if the subject of the investigation or prosecution were an adult, unless the request to inspect or to obtain a copy of the record is for the purpose of acquiring information that is subject to release as a public record under this section and the judge who imposed the sentence or made the adjudication with respect to the person, or the judge’s successor in office, finds that the information sought in the public record is necessary to support what appears to be a justiciable claim of the person’.
We are NOT the incarcerated individual nor are we ‘representing’ Jermane Scott therefore this denial is invalid and completely Irrelevant to our claim. Chapter 2 (4) (A) of the Ohio Sunshine Laws 2013 states ‘An Inmate Designee may not make a public records request on behalf of the inmate that the inmate is prohibited from making directly’. The dictionary definition of ‘designee’ is ‘someone chosen to do something’. The 3 people (myself included) who have requested these files in 2016 are not ‘designee’s’, we are not ‘chosen’ to do something nor are we requesting these files on behalf of Jermane. Jermane will not be accessing these files once we receive them. The information we have all requested is for our own use/purpose and interest. A purpose of which Ohio Sunshine Laws states we don’t have to disclose or divulge to the Court House on making our request. Their denial using law 149.43 (B) (8) is completely irrelevant in this instance and is not a valid reason for denial of our request. 149.43 (B) (4) states ‘Unless specifically required or authorized by state or federal law or in accordance with division (B) of this section, no public office or person responsible for public records may limit or condition the availability of public records by requiring disclosure of the requester’s identity or the intended use of the requested public record. Any requirement that the requester disclose the requestor’s identity or the intended use of the requested public record constitutes a denial of the request’. There is absolutely no reason for this public office to enquire into our identity or our reasons for wanting these files. Due to us NOT being an incarcerated individual and us NOT being Jermane Scott’s legal team nor ‘designees’ rule 149.43 (B) (1) applies to our request instead. It states ‘Upon request and subject to division (B)(8) of this section, all public records responsive to the request shall be promptly prepared and made available for inspection to any person at all reasonable times during regular business hours. Subject to division (B)(8) of this section, upon request, a public office or person responsible for public records shall make copies of the requested public record available at cost and within a reasonable period of time’
This is not the first time the Clark County court house have denied someone access to these specific files. One person made a request and was denied access to these files but was told ‘we cannot facilitate your request or divulge our reasons at this time’ Ohio Public Records act (Ohio Sunshine Law) state that any denials to a requesters access to a file MUST be met with a clear reason for that denial and that denial must only be due to the file that they are requesting be an exempt file (which this file is not). I do not believe ‘we cannot facilitate your request or divulge our reasons at this time’ to be a valid full explanation for a request denial. Their laws clearly states they MUST divulge their reasons for a denial in full and if not then they must fulfil the request immediately
The sections of transcripts that we are still being denied access to are the Penalty Phase and the Verdict Hearing stage. Clark County Record of Retention Schedule Rule 1.27 states that in criminal cases (as is this) opening and closing statements may not be copied without written application, the showing of good cause and approval of the Judge’ YET it is neither the opening or closing argument we are missing or requesting. No other mention of any other sections of a criminal case file that requires an approval from a Judge is given in their own laws therefore the sections we are requesting do NOT require a Judge’s approval to access or copy unless we are the incarcerated individual who clearly we are not.
We have been met by many varying reasons why the court reporter didn’t/doesn’t want to fulfil our request none of them adhering to the rules/procedures documented in the Ohio Sunshine Manual or the Clark of Courts Local Rules of Practice and Procedures manual. The court reporter told one individual requesting these files on the 30th March that ‘if anyone else rings up for these files I will not be giving them copies and will instead be giving them your contact name and phone number.’ Other excuses for not fulfilling our requests range from ‘I’m too busy’ or ‘we aren’t prepared to waste our time on this 20 year old case’. The same court reporter claimed too many people had previously requested these files and she knew that ‘at some point the Judge is going to say stop because I have got so much other work to do’. The court reporter adamantly claims that numerous people have requested these files previously and ‘many many many’ copies had been made (if you refer to my chronological list below you will see that indeed many request have been made but none of them fulfilled and in fact many requests ignored) The Ohio Public Record Act (Sunshine Law) Chapter 5 states that a ‘pubic records policy may NOT limit the number of public records made available to a single person, nor can they limit the number of records the public office will make available during a fixed period of time nor can they establish a fixed period of time before the public office will respond to a request for copies or inspection of public records’. It clearly state there is NO limitation for the number of requesters for a specific file and the public office have no authority to limit the amount of requests for a particular record/file nor is there a time limit regarding the age of a file. It is the Court Houses responsibility to maintain and make available ALL public records and the age of those records are irrelevant.
DISPOSAL OF PUBLIC RECORDS/ FILES
Eventually after much challenging of Public Officials we were informed (via email on the 15th April) we would NOT be receiving the 2 missing sections of transcripts (Verdict and Penalty Stage) because they had been ‘disposed of by a court reporter 10 years previously’. The official from the Clerk of Courts office told us via email that ‘as per their policy by order of courts states they can dispose of transcripts after 10 years’ No mention of the ‘lost’ exhibits nor an explanation of how they became lost or if anyone was indeed looking for them. Ohio Sunshine Law 2013 chapter 5 (2) (C) states ‘All records are considered to be the property of the public office and must be delivered by outgoing official and employees to their successors in office. Improper removal, destruction, damage or other disposition of a record is a violation of RC. 149.351 (A)’. To lose over 30 separate exhibits in a Capital Punishment/Death Penalty case is not acceptable and nor is not deeming it important enough to warrant an internal investigation or explanation. Chapter 5 (B) (1) states ‘The Public office is responsible for continuing to maintain the records in such a way that it can be made available at any time if it is responsible to a public records request’. It is their responsibility to keep all aspects of a file intact and undamaged so that it can be copied/accessed or examined at any time. The loss of over 30 separate exhibits (all crucial original evidence material) in a capital murder/Death Penalty case I believe is a violation of the Ohio Public Records Act 2013. Their unwillingness to explain this loss and to show any signs of concern for the loss of these exhibits I believe too is a violation of the Ohio Public Records Act 2013
On researching the Public Officials rights to dispose of public records I am concerned these 2 sections of Jermane Scott’s files have been disposed of unlawfully. Ohio Sunshine Law 2013 Chapter (5) (2A) states ‘Records of a public office may be destroyed but ONLY if they are destroyed in compliance with a properly approved records of retention schedule’. On referring to the Clark County Records of Retention Schedule Rule 2.35 (Record Retention and Destruction) it states ‘retentions/destruction of any file/record will be in accordance with the SUP R 26 of the rules of the Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio’. Rule 26 of the Superintendence for the courts of Ohio Retention Schedule states ‘to provide minimum standards for the maintenance, preservation and destruction of records within the courts. Implementation of this rule is a judicial, government function’. Rule 26 (F) (5) states ‘A case file not listed in division (F) of this rule (which this is case is) shall be retained for TWELVE years after the final order of the general division’. However Rule 26 (F) (1) states that ‘DEATH PENALTY CASE FILES SHALL BE RETAINED PERMANENTLY’ Death Penalty cases also known as Capital Punishment cases are ‘charges of aggravated murder with a death penalty specification’ Jermane Scott’s case was/is exactly that. He was charged for Aggravated Murder with a Death Penalty Specification therefore making his case a Death Penalty (Capital Punishment) case and therefore as per the Clark County Record of Retention Schedule SUPR R26 (F) (1) Death Penalty Case Files MUST be kept permanently with NO disposal of any sections/parts of that file/case EVER under ANY authority. I believe the disposal of the Verdict and Penalty Stages of Case 96-CR-0657 was a violation of this law. I believe that the ‘loss’ of ALL exhibits in relation to this Death Penalty case/file is another violation of this law. Jermane Scott fortunately avoided receiving the Death Penalty. The Jury deciding to vote instead for Life without Parole – His trial/case/files and charges are for Aggravated Murder (Capital Punishment) with a Death Penalty Specification thus making it a DEATH PENALTY CASE. The fact he did not receive the Death Penalty is irrelevant here and his case files (public records) should be treated as a Death Penalty Case and therefore RETAINED PERMANENTLY by the Clerk of Courts and the Common Pleas court. Under no authority and no section of the Retention Schedule does it allow any part of a Death Penalty Case to be destroyed/lost or disposed of at any time regardless of the age of the case.
Even if the Court House classed Case 96-CR-0657 as a NONE Death Penalty Case the Clark County Retention Schedule also states Rule 26.03 (F) that ALL Exhibits and transcripts (relating to any case files not listed in division F) can only be disposed of or destroyed ‘At the conclusion of litigation, including times for direct appeal, a court or custodian of exhibits or transcripts may destroy these if all the following conditions are satisfied’ 4 Rules regarding the correct lawful procedures public officials must adhere to before a disposal of any file can take place follows in the manual. At this point I would like to make it clear that Jermane Scott has ALL of his rights to appeals left (bar one which took place after his trial in 1997). As of today he has NOT exhausted all levels/ rights to appeal. As of today the ‘conclusion of litigation’ (which includes ALL available times for direct appeal that an inmate is entitled to) have NOT been concluded. Regardless of Jermane Scott’s case file being a Death Penalty Case (which protects it from ever being destroyed) litigation has NOT reached its point of conclusion yet. This rule protects individuals files so that they can be accessed and the information within can be used to support their rights to a fair and thorough chance of appeal. The unlawful destruction of his files will indeed have a huge detrimental effect of Jermane Scott’s chances of being allowed a fair chance of appeal if any part of his files have been destroyed, lost or are missing. I believe the Clark County Courts have destroyed sections and lost sections of a Death Penalty Case and destroyed and lost sections of a case which as yet has not reached its litigation conclusion. Two main rules regarding the destruction and disposal of public records NOT adhered too. Rule 26.03 (F) continues that before any disposal is carried out the court must notify the party that tendered the exhibits or transcripts in writing so that party can retrieve these exhibits/transcripts within 60 days from the date of the written notification. Jermane Scott has received no written notification that any sections of his public records were being destroyed or have been destroyed
Transcripts Requested: FULL COMPLETE FILE/RECORDS Case No. 96-CR-0657
Transcripts Received: Pages 1 to 1956
Sections Missing: Status
Verdict Hearing Stage of Transcripts case 96-CR-0657 DISPOSED
Penalty Stage of Transcripts case 96-CR-0657 DISPOSED
Discovery List in case 96-CR-0657 DENIED
All Exhibits case 96-CR-0657 LOST
Records Located at the Clark County Common Pleas Courts Ohio http://www.clarkcountyohio.govReferences
www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov (few full Ohio Sunshine Law Manual)
www.clarkcountyohio.gov/DocumentCenter/View/298 (downloaded version of Clark County Local Rules & Procedures/ Record of Retention Schedule)
www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/LegalResources/Rules/superintendence/Superintendence.pdf (downloaded version of Ohio Rules of Superintendence Supreme Court of Ohio)
Chronological List of Requests Made to the Clark County Common Pleas Courts for Case Files 96-CR-0657
Between 1997 – 2012 NO requests for copies of case no. 96-CR-0657 were made by Jermane Scott or any other individual (either on behalf of Jermane Scott or for their own sole purpose/interest) that I nor Jermane Scott are aware of. In March 2016 I was approached by an individual (Ms A) asking if I could supply her with copies of Jermane Scott’s case file as she was interested to learn more about his case (for personal interest). I informed her that I (nor anyone else who had requested this case file) had been successful in doing so. The ONLY request made by a law firm/legal representation was in 2012. All other requests have been made by a member of the general public (none of which are in the legal profession or are ‘representing Jermane’ in any legal capacity).
2012: Jermane contacted his former Appeals Attorney requesting copies of his court transcripts/files. They agreed to contact the Clark County Ohio Court House on his behalf to get copies for him. They made numerous attempts to request copies of Jermanes files but received NO response. Result: NO COPIES WERE MADE OR SENT/NO REASON FOR DENIAL OR RESPONSE GIVEN. REQUEST DENIED
May 2015: Jermanes sister called the Court House to enquire about getting copies of Jermanes court files for her own purpose. She was told by the Court Reporter of the Judge ‘I will not make any more copies’. Result: NO COPIES WERE MADE OR SENT/NO REASON FOR DENIAL GIVEN. REQUEST DENIED
September 2015: Ms P rang the Court House and asked specifically for the transcripts relating to Detective Smoot and the interrogation videos of all witnesses (wanting to know how much this would cost for copies to be made). Ms P was told by the Court Reporter of Judge ‘You cannot have them’. (And was told this was by instructions of the Judge) . No reason or explanation for this denial was given Result: NO COPIES WERE MADE OR SENT/NO REASON FOR DENIAL GIVEN. REQUEST DENIED
10th October 2015: Ohio Clark County Court records show (on their website/records) ‘JERMANE SCOTT FILES 100% TO CIVIL/CRIMINAL TRANSCRIPTS RECEIPT 201802’.
October 2015: I rang up the Clark County Court House and after much passing from department to department within the court house spoke to a lady who passed me through to the Secretary (court reporter) to the Judge relating to this case. The call went straight to voicemail. I left a voicemail detailing the files I wanted copies of (for my own use and purpose) and a phone number to reach me on. NO RESPONSE WAS MADE. Result: NO COPIES WERE MADE OR SENT/NO REASON FOR DENIAL WAS GIVEN/NO RESPONSE WAS RECEIVED. REQUEST DENIED
October 2015: Jermane Scott contacted the Clark County Courts and spoke on the phone with the secretary (court reporter) to the Judge and was told he was allowed to purchase a small section of his transcripts at the cost of $2 a page. Jermane ordered 1 section of court transcripts from his files (approx. 20 pages). NO mention of any issues were given and nor was he told he couldn’t have future copies or access to his files at a later date
January 2016: Jermane Scott rang the Clark County Courts and spoke to the court reporter requesting another small section of his files to be copied and sent to him on payment. He was told by this secretary ‘My supervisor has instructed me I am NOT allowed to send you any more copies of your files and if you want them you must pay for the whole file and not just small parts of it anymore’. Result: NO COPIES WERE MADE OR SENT/NO REASON FOR SUDDEN CHANGE GIVEN
February 2016: Jermane Scott wrote to the Clerk of Courts at the Clark County Court House (as instructed to by the Police Dept LT in January 2016) requesting copies of his complete files. Result: NO COPIES WERE MADE OR SENT/NO REASON GIVEN FOR THE DENIAL/NO RESPONSE RECEIVED
7th March 2016: A gentleman interested in Jermanes case requested copies of Case No. 96-CR-0657 for his own sole use and purpose (journalistic interest). He filled out and sent a Freedom of Information Report Request with the Ohio State Justice Department on the grounds of being a writer/blogger. On the 19th March 2016 he received a response (via phone) from the Clark County Court Clerk (possibly the same secretary) stating ‘unfortunately at this time we are unable to facilitate your request due to reasons we cannot divulge at this time’. No further explanation was given to him. Result: NO COPIES WERE MADE OR SENT/NO REASON/EXPLANATION GIVEN FOR THE DENIAL. REQUEST DENIED
15th March 2016 Jermane Scott sent a follow up letter to the Clerk of Courts requesting again copies of his files or for them to reply to his letter with reasons why he was being denied access. Result: NO COPIES MADE OR SENT/NO REASON GIVEN FOR DENIAL/NO RESPONSE RECEIVED
15th March 2016: Ms A (who prefers to stay anonymous) was interested in Case No. 96-CR-0657so requested the FULL COMPLETE files for her own sole use and purpose. She emailed the Clark County Courts stating she would like to obtain the complete 100% transcripts/file. She received a reply via email informing her she would need to contact the secretary (court reporter) of the Judge in question who could facilitate her request. Voicemail left for this secretary/court reporter.
17th March 2016: Ms A received a voicemail from the secretary/court reporter leaving the following voicemail
(Exact words dictated from voicemail) ‘Hey, this is L*** from the Clark County Court House returning your call again, um, regarding Jermane Scott, you know I looked up my notes on this and there is really nothing, nothing more that I can do. This is a 20 years old case. Since 2012 I have had 4 emails or calls from women in law office requesting transcripts, each time I have to get to the head court reporter, we have to go up in the attic and dig things out. Now the last time we went through this back in September the head court reporter said this is it ‘No More’!. We have done all we can and can’t waste our time on this 20 year old case’, um all the transcripts were filed back years ago, I wasn’t even the court reporter. So, um, I guess you feel free to call me back in you want, but I am telling you right now, we have pulled those old transcripts and made copies many many many time and that’s too much. I don’t understand what’s going on but, um anyway I got a really busy day today. You can call me back if you want but I really can’t do much more for you. Um, like I said, since 2012 I have had one, two, three, you are the fourth female that has called in a law office and I have done everything I can and I know at some point my judge is going to say stop because I have got so much other work to do’. Phone message stops because time elapsed.
17th March 2016: Jermane Scott sent a letter to the Clark County Prosecutor requesting copies of his files and transcripts or reason for denial. Result: NO COPIES MADE OR SENT/NO REASON GIVEN FOR DENIAL/ NO RESPONSE RECEIVED
18th March 2016: Ms A left another voicemail for The Court Reporter asking her to let her know via a simple ‘yes or no’ if she is going to provide her with the files and if not for a full valid explanation for that denial.
21st March 2016: The Court Reporter contacted Ms A in response to her voicemail and told her that ‘NO she would NOT be making any more copies of these files’. The Court Reporter told her that ‘Jermane should already have a copy of these files’ Ms A told her that she was requesting these files for herself (and her own sole use) and not for Jermane Scott and explained she was not from a law firm. The Court Reporter made it very clear she was refusing to make copies or send out copies and said she could ‘do no more to help’. The Court Reporter went on to repeat that ‘many women’ have requested these files and she has supplied them all with copies (as you can see THIS IS NOT TRUE). She gave NO official lawful reason for this refusal. And claimed that she was ‘too busy’ to keep making copies of this file. The Court Reporter went on to say that the Judge would refuse her to make more copies of these files. Result: NO COPIES MADE OR SENT/NO LAWFUL REASON/EXPLANATION FOR DENIAL GIVEN. REQUEST DENIED
22nd March 2016: Ms A rang the Court House again asking again for copies of files relating to Case No. 96-CR-0657. She made the Court Reporter aware she would be prepared to come to the Court House to either wait for the copies of the files if necessary or to examine the files for herself. The Court Reporter asked Ms A to ‘give her another week’ to retrieve the files. The Court Reporter then admitted that she had looked into this file the previous day (and again quoted that ‘many many women had already requested copies and she had supplied them with them) and after looking through these files she noticed there were ‘parts of the files missing’. The Court Reporter would not comment or give details of how much was ‘missing’ or why it was ‘missing’. However she said she would allow Ms A copies of what ‘bits of the files’ she has in a weeks’ time because she needs to ‘have time to go through the files first’. Ms A challenged her further that she does not need a week to ‘go through the files first’ because she wanted 100% of the files or if she cannot produce 100% of it she wanted a full explanation of what is missing and why and what sections they are going to be redacting and under whose authority and under which exemption law. It was agreed Ms A would phone the Court Reporter on the Friday (25th) to confirm picking up the files on Tuesday (29th)
28th March 2016: The Court Reporter rang Ms A to inform her that she had ‘found nearly everything’. She informed Ms A that ‘all the exhibits are gone’ and that she ‘doesn’t have them’. She was willing to make a copy of the transcripts/documents for Ms A on receipt of payment. It was agreed that once payment was received Ms A could arrange for a courier to pick up her copies of the files. No mention/explanation of where the missing exhibits were or what was being done about it. Ms A drew up a money order and sent it to Clerk of Courts as per the Court Reporters instructions.
29th March 2016: Ms A received notification from the Courier that her money order had been signed for at the Court House at 9.55am. Ms A tried unsuccessfully to speak to the Court Reporter to now organise her copies be picked up by the Courier. NO RESPONSE RECEIVED
30th March 2016: Ms A rang Court Reporter. The Court reporter informed Ms A that her request had still not been copied. She explained that the parts of the files she had for Ms A came to 2000 pages and all of the photocopies in her office had reached their Quota level for the day (it was 10am at this time). She explained further that due to the files being 2000 pages she ‘couldn’t use her photocopier to make copies’. The Court Reporter then told her that she had ‘spoken to the judge and he has told me he wants me to take the files over to KINKOS Store to leave them there for them to copy for me. So now I have to get my car and go to Kinko and drop the files off with them’ she then informed Ms A the files would be ready for her on Friday (1st April). The Court Reporter then asked Ms A for her ‘full name and phone number’ Ms A asked why she needed this information. The Court Reporter told her that ‘I need it because if anyone else rings up asking for a copy of these files I will be giving them YOUR contact details and YOU can give them copies’. Ms A told her that she is NOT allowed to do that and does NOT wish for her name or private contact details to be given out to strangers. The Court Reporter gave no details on if the ‘missing sections’ of transcripts had been found nor if the ‘missing’ exhibits had been found or indeed if they were even being looked for.
6th April 2016: Copies of transcripts received. However the seal was not in tact (and had been opened or not sealed when leaving the Court House) on receipt by Ms A. On receipt Ms A confirmed that the whole section of the penalty phase and the verdict hearing phase of the transcripts had been redacted/missing (as well as all the exhibits)
10th April 2016: Ms A emailed the Clerk of Courts informing him that she had requested copies of the FULL file of Case No. 96-CR-0657 but she had been informed that ‘parts were missing’ as well as ‘all the exhibits lost’. She requested that he look into this issue and that she would like copies of these missing sections and all the exhibits to be found and copies sent to her (on receipt of payment). She explained she had received no explanation as to why these sections/exhibits were missing. Ms A also explained she did not wish to be passed back to the Court Reporter as the Court Reporter had made it clear to her she could no longer help with her request
11th April 2016: Ms A received an email from an official at the Clerk of Courts informing her that ‘the Clerk of Courts were NOT responsible for fulfilling her request’. Ms A responded to ask therefore WHO she should speak to/contact regarding this issue. The Clerk of Courts official replied that under the rules of the court the responsibility to provide files is down to the court reporter and NOT the Clerk of Courts. Ms A replied asking her to state this ‘rule of court’ and to advise her of her next step into retrieving the missing parts of the files due to the Court Reporter claiming to not have them.
15th April 2016: Ms A received an email from another Public Office Official from the Clerk of Courts informing Ms A that she was in receipt of her emails to the Clerk of Court. The Public Office Official confirmed that after 10 years ‘notes/exhibits and possibly transcript office copies are disposed of’ that she and the Court Reporter were ‘lucky to have found what they had of these files’. She informed Ms A that ‘another reporter had taken the verdict and penalty stages of the transcripts and on talking to this reporter they could now not be located and had been purged’ No explanation or reason was given for why someone had disposed of these files nor on who’s authority. The Public Official failed to mention anything about the missing ‘lost’ exhibits nor if the Clerk of Courts were at all concerned that records and files in their care were ‘lost’. The Public Official went on to say that none of the missing parts of the transcripts would be supplied (the penalty phase nor the verdict phase) because they had ‘disposed of them’.
Ms A replied to this email asking to be told who has custody of the ORIGINAL case files (transcripts/exhibits) if the Clerk does not have them relating to this case so that she can then contact them for the missing pieces/sections instead. Ms A also asked them to confirm how she could get hold of the exhibits and to supply her with the trustees name so she could contact them instead for the exhibits. NO RESPONSE RECEIVED. NO FURTHER EXPLANATION GIVEN. REQUEST DENIED
22nd April 2016: Amber emailed Clerk County Office/Prosecutor asking for copies of the Discovery Lists relating to Case No. 96-CR-0657.
25th April 2016: A 3rd Public Office Official from the Clerk of Courts responded to Ms A email to inform her that her request for the discovery list had been denied due to ‘pursuant to section 149.43(B) (8) of the Ohio Revised Code. Ms A replied to inform the Public Official that this rule/law states that an inmate or a person representing that inmate can be denied access to that record HOWEVER Ms A pointed out she is NOT the inmate nor is she representing Jermane Scott as she is not an attorney (or from a legal firm) and she is requesting this information for her OWN personal interest, so therefore the denial given to her under this rule/law does NOT apply to this request. NO FURTHER RESPONSE RECEIVED/NO FURTHER EXPLANATION OR REASON FOR DENIAL GIVEN. REQUEST DENIED
Criminaljusticereformjournal.com recently ran an article detailing other previous wrongful conviction case who were/are facing similar unlawful behaviour by Courts in various States of America. Their article included the difficulties Jermane was facing accessing his own public records via Clark County Courts OH. Click link below to view:
Let the Sunshine In: Written by Grace Winterwood at criminaljusticereformjournal.com