Miss. inmate seeks access to circuit clerk records

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi Supreme Court will decide if Timothy Pryer’s efforts to gain documents related to his sexual battery conviction were illegally denied.

Pryer argues in court briefs that he was making a Public Records Act request to the Itawamba County Circuit Clerk’s office. He said the clerk turned the request over to the Circuit Court, which treated it as a petition for post-conviction relief and denied it.

In a post-conviction petition, an inmate argues he has found new evidence - or a possible constitutional issue - that could persuade a court to order a new trial.

“The circuit court had no jurisdiction to entertain a Public Record request as a post-conviction relief petition,” Pryer said in a motion filed with the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court last week granted Pryer’s motion to hear an appeal.

Pryer, who is representing himself, said he was being singled out for being an inmate.

“The law gives ‘persons’ the right to examine public records upon his or her choosing and to pay reasonable fees for copies. Pryer has been denied all access to public records that non-prisoners are guaranteed,” Pryer wrote in the motion.

Pryer was convicted in 2005 in Itawamba County Circuit Court of sexual battery. He was sentenced to 20 years, with 15 years to serve and five suspended. He also was required to register as a sex offender.

In June 2011, he filed the public records request. On Feb. 1, 2012, Circuit Judge Thomas Gardner III entered an order turning down the request. The state Court of Appeals upheld Gardner’s ruling last year.

In affirming the earlier documents denial, the appeals court said there was “no reason to believe that any such documents exist.”

“It further appears that Pryer is merely on a ‘fishing expedition’ for grounds upon which to attack his conviction and sentence,” the court said.

The appeals court said Pryer has not shown a specific need or that the documents sought are necessary to decide a specific issue.

Court records show Pryer is seeking transcripts and documents from Dec. 2, 2004, and specifically an order giving the circuit court authority to appoint lawyers for indigent defendants.

Pryer has accused the circuit judges of Itawamba County of signing generic orders and allowing clerks to officiate arraignments. The practice is unlawful and Pryer needs public records to prove it,” Pryer said in court documents.

In his order denying Pryer’s request, Gardner said Pryer was making “completely unfounded and slanderous allegations against several court offices.”

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