City to release 'significant portion' of Steve Nunn police investigation

Citing privacy concerns, city will redact some content

July 21, 2011 

The Urban County Government reversed course Wednesday and said it would release a "significant portion" of the police investigation in the murder case against former state Rep. Steve Nunn.

In a response last week to the Herald-Leader's open-records request for the records, Lexington police, on a recommendation from city attorneys, said the investigative file would not be released until after Nunn had completed his sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The sentence was handed down after he pleaded guilty in the shooting death of Amanda Ross.

On Monday, after the Herald-Leader objected, the city said it would reconsider its position.

On Wednesday, Janet Graham, the city's commissioner of law, said in a letter to the newspaper that much of the police file would be released "in order to promote government transparency." The city's law department is reviewing portions of the voluminous file to remove personal information, including Social Security numbers, addresses and financial information.

Graham estimated that the first records would be made available in five to seven days.

Some sections of the file will not be released, she said, including parts that would disclose "information of a personal nature, the disclosure of which will not tend to advance a wholesome public interest or a legitimate private interest."

Other portions of the file pertain to third parties who might "have a privacy interest in the requested records," Graham wrote. She said those people would be notified and given 45 to 60 days to review the files and potentially object to their release on privacy grounds.

The city is "certainly mindful of the pain that the victim's family has experienced and will attempt not to cause further damage to them by failing to use due care in the processing of this open-records request," Graham wrote.

She also said in the letter that some of the records on the Nunn case in the local government's possession were created by another law enforcement agency, not Lexington police. She said her office was in the process of determining whether those records have anything to do with open investigations. If they do, she said, they are exempt from being produced. National Crime Information Center records or other information prohibited from disclosure by state or federal law that are within the requested records also would be exempt, Graham said.

The Herald-Leader had requested the case file under the Kentucky Open Records Act after Nunn, 58, pleaded guilty June 28 to fatally shooting Ross, his former fiancée, on Sept. 11, 2009.

The police department, on the advice of city attorneys and citing a 1992 Kentucky Supreme Court decision, responded with a letter saying the request would not be fulfilled until Nunn completed his life sentence in prison.

The police department typically considers cases closed once a defendant has been sentenced. The newspaper previously has received investigative case files while criminal defendants were alive and serving probation or prison sentences.

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