Arkansas High Court Orders Release of Cold-Case File

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CN) – Arkansas State Police must hand over records in a 1963 unsolved murder case they claimed were exempt from public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, the state’s highest court ruled.

In a unanimous opinion, the Arkansas Supreme Court found that the family of Ruby Lowery Stapleton is entitled to know how law enforcement performed their duties in the 54 years since her abduction and murder in White County.

The Keech Law Firm of Little Rock won the legal ruling on behalf of Stapleton’s granddaughter, who filed the complaint in 2013 under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act when state police refused to release the case file, claiming it was free from disclosure because the investigation remained active.

The Arkansas grandmother was 59 years old in 1963 when her nude body was discovered in a wooded area after she was last seen at a laundromat. No charges have ever been filed.

The Arkansas Supreme Court said in its ruling Thursday that while ongoing investigations are free from public disclosure under a FOIA exemption, a review of the case “reveals sparse activity by ASP from 1965 until 2014.”

Every action highlighted by state police to show an active and ongoing investigation took place after the law firm filed its lawsuit, the ruling states.

“This is a 54-year-old murder case. No charges have been brought or appear to be imminent. The victim’s family and the public are entitled to know how the officials in the case, i.e., law enforcement, performed their duties,” Justice Rhonda Wood wrote for the court.

A stay had been in place while Attorney General Leslie Rutledge appealed a lower court ruling ordering the state police to turn over the file.

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