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Last updated 3:06AM ET
March 9, 2021
Prison Officials Say Barksdale Report Not Public Record
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - The state is refusing to provide records about the death of inmate Farron Barksdale to relatives of the man, who was convicted of killing two Athens police officers and died within days of arriving in an Alabama prison.

A spokesman for the Department of Corrections said Friday the documents aren't public record, and a lawyer for the family said he is considering what to do next to obtain the reports.

"It's just a stone wall," said Jake Watson, representing the Barksdale family.

Barksdale, 32, was found unconscious in his cell at Kilby prison near Montgomery on Aug. 11, just three days after he arrived. He died at a hospital on Aug. 20 after relatives asked that he be taken off life support.

Prison officials have said Barksdale with a history of mental illness had a high fever, symptoms of a bad infection and marks like bruises on his pelvis.

Questions were raised about the death partly because Sheriff Mike Blakely of Limestone County, where Barksdale was convicted, said his staff received a call from the hospital indicating Barksdale appeared to have been severely beaten.

The prison system said it was unaware of any assault.

Watson sent the prison system a letter seeking information about the department's investigation of Barksdale's condition, including witness statements and other reports, but the agency refused to release the documents.

Watson made the request under the state's open records law, but prison spokesman Brian Corbett denied that such records are open to the public.

"There are some long-standing court cases and precedents that state an inmate's file is not a public record," said Corbett.

Generally, the department only releases basic information about inmates including their names, birthdates, convictions and sentences, he said.

Watson said Barksdale's family wants to know what led to his death and is considering options to obtain the records.

The Department of Forensic Science performed an autopsy Barksdale, but the findings have not been released. An outside expert hired by Barksdale's family witnessed the examination under a judge's order, which was made in response to a complaint filed by the family.

Barksdale was sentenced to life without parole after he admitted shooting Officer Tony Mims, 40, and Sgt. Larry Russell, 42, as they arrived at a house in Athens in January 2004.

The defense claimed Barksdale was a paranoid schizophrenic, but doctors determined he was mentally competent to stand trial.

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