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Austin Must Hand Over Police Report to City Newspaper

(CN) - The city of Austin, Texas, must turn over a police report on a child sexual assault case to the city newspaper, the Texas Court of Appeals ruled.

The Austin Chronicle sued for a writ of mandamus to compel the city to turn over the police report of the case of Fran's Daycare. In 1992, Frances and Daniel Keller were sentenced to 48 years in prison for sexual assault of a child.

On the advice of the state attorney general's office, the city refused to turn over the report, based on the doctrine of common law privacy. The district court denied the newspaper's writ of mandamus, stating that the city "acted in reasonable reliance on a written opinion from the office of the attorney general."

Judge Patterson reversed the decision, ruling that privacy had already disappeared as a result of extensive media coverage of the trial.

"The attorney general failed to address whether the information in the police report was already a matter of public record," Patterson wrote. "There was a complete absence of evidence of a vital fact - that the report contained information that was private."

Patterson noted that the police report itself was not in the record when the district court made its decision.

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