HOPEWELL — The man convicted of killing his three children by intentionally setting fire to their home in 1995 has been rebuffed in his latest attempt to get out of prison.
Mark Mastin, who is serving 25 years to life in Southport Correctional Facility near Elmira on each of three counts of
second-degree murder, was denied in his recent request to get a list of all documents, recordings, photos and other materials related to his case.
His request was first denied by Hans-J. Finke, Ontario County’s records access officer, and later by Ted Fafinski, R-Farmington, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors.
Mastin made the request to Finke under the state’s Freedom of Information Law. In a return letter to Mastin, Finke said although the county has the actual records, it doesn’t have a list of those items and under FOIL is not obliged to create a new document.
In the letter, Finke also discussed Mastin’s request for photos and slides. Finke said after he sent Mastin three letters, Mastin did not submit the necessary payment, and if he requested any future documents, he would be required to submit a prepayment of no less than $25.
Mastin appealed Finke’s decision to Fafinski, who backed the denial.
In a letter to Mastin, Fafinski said it is standard practice to request prepayment for copies of documents under FOIL, and agencies aren’t required to provide copies of records or documents prior to receiving a fee for those copies.
Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, said FOIL pertains to existing records, not a list of those records. He believes the county was right to deny Mastin’s request.
“There is no such list,” he said.
Mastin was convicted in 1996 of first-degree arson and three counts each of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in the Dec. 9, 1995, fire that killed his three children — Louis, 6, Cassandra, 5, and Douglas, 3 — in the former carriage house on Routes 5&20 in Hopewell where the family lived. In a statement to police, he said he was mad at his wife for staying out late with a friend.
He later recanted his confession and claimed police coerced him into making it. His conviction was reviewed and unanimously upheld by judges at the Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court. A further appeal to the state Court of Appeals — the state’s highest court — was also rejected.
Several years ago, Mastin started a round of appeals in the federal court system, but a judge upheld the conviction and rejected all his claims.
This is Mastin’s second appeal to Ontario County officials about his case. In a letter sent last August to each of the 21 members of the Board of Supervisors, Mastin asked them to support his clemency bid to Gov. David Paterson.
The supervisors did not act on the request, and Paterson did not grant clemency. Mastin also was denied clemency by Paterson in 2008.
In his letter to Mastin, Fafinski said under Public Officer’s Law, Mastin can request an Article 78 proceeding under the Civil Practice Law and Rules.