APPEAL FROM THE JEFFERSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO.
35CR-83-26] HONORABLE JODI RAINES DENNIS, JUDGE
L. Linell, pro se appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brooke Jackson Gasaway,
Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.
RHONDAK.WOOD, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE
Carl Lee Linell seeks relief from the denial of his writ of
mandamus that sought to order the Jefferson County
Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter to authorize the release
of information and evidence from his criminal case from the
Arkansas State Crime Lab. As we find the circuit court did
not abuse its discretion and that Linell was not entitled to
the writ, we affirm.
and Procedural History
was convicted of two counts of capital murder and one count
of attempted murder in 1983, for which he was sentenced to
two terms of life imprisonment without parole and twenty
years' imprisonment to be served consecutively. Pursuant
to Arkansas Code Annotated section 12-12-312 (Supp. 2015), on
October 22, 2015, Linell wrote Hunter, and requested
authorization for the State Crime Lab to release
"information/documents pertaining to [his] 1983
trial[.]" Linell specifically requested
"information in regard to testimony given by state
witnesses concerning a pistol allegedly belonging to a Mr.
James Nelson." The prosecuting attorney denied
authorization of the requested information.
21, 2016, Linell filed a petition for writ of mandamus with
the circuit court requesting the court order Hunter to grant
authorization to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory to
release the requested information and documents. Linell
attached all the above-referenced correspondence to his
pleading. The circuit court denied Linell's petition.
purpose of a writ of mandamus in a civil or criminal case is
to enforce an established right or to enforce the performance
of a duty. Pritchett v. Spicer, 2017 Ark. 82, 513
S.W.3d 252. When requesting a writ of mandamus, a petitioner
must show a clear and certain right to the relief sought and
the absence of any other adequate remedy. Id. The
standard of review on a denial of a writ of mandamus is
whether the circuit court abused its discretion. Dobbins
v. Democratic Party of Ark., 374 Ark. 496, 288 S.W.3d
639 (2008). A circuit court abuses its discretion when it
makes a decision that is arbitrary and capricious.
Pritchett, 2017 Ark. 82, 513 S.W.3d 252.
appeal, Linell argues that pursuant to Arkansas Code
Annotated section 12-12-312 and Davis v. Deen, 2014
Ark. 313, 437 S.W.3d 694 (per curiam), he is entitled to
"full access to the records and information he has
sought" and that section 12-12-312 "obligates the
prosecuting attorney to release the information by giving
[the] Arkansas Crime Laboratory (lab) permission to release
the information so requested because it has nothing to do
with none other than the appellant himself."
State contends that the statutory language in section
12-12-312(a)(1)(B)(ii) no longer dictates mandatory
disclosure as it had previously held in Davis and
that the change in language adds a "prerequisite to
disclosure." Specifically, the State contends that the
language requires the prosecuting attorney to first know that
the information in the documents retained by the crime lab
would negate a defendant's guilt or reduce his punishment
before the documents are required to be disclosed. Here,
because the information Linell sought had no bearing on
Linell's guilt or sentence, the State argues that the
prosecuting attorney was not statutorily required to disclose
the crime lab documents to Linell.
Code Annotated section 12-12-312(a)(1)(B)(i) states that
"[t]his section does not diminish the right of a
defendant or his or her attorney to full access to all
records pertaining to the case." When it comes to the
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), codified at Arkansas Code
Annotated section 25-19-101 et. seq., this court has
liberally interpreted the FOIA to promote access to public
information. See Ark. Dep't of Corr. v. Shults,
2017 Ark. 300, 529 S.W.3d 628. Being mindful that section
12-12-312(a)(1)(A)(i) is an exception to the FOIA because the
records, file, and information kept, obtained, or retained by
the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory are privileged and
confidential, the court interprets any exemptions to the FOIA
narrowly and in favor of disclosure. Id.
Davis, subsection (a)(1)(B)(i) stated that
"[n]othing in this section shall be construed to
diminish the right of a defendant or his or her attorney to
full access to all records pertaining to the case." That
language was amended by Act 892 section 1, which went into
effect on July 27, 2011, and now states that "[t]his
section does not diminish the right of a defendant or his or
her attorney to full access to all records pertaining to the
case." Ark. Code Ann. § 12-12-312(a)(1)(B)(i)
(Supp. 2015). The language remains definitive that the