Judge didn't prohibit Norman police from releasing copy of Mixon video

Cleveland County Special District Judge Steven Stice apparently changed his mind regarding public access to the surveillance video of an incident involving University of Oklahoma freshman running back Joe Mixon. At Mixon's arraignment a week ago, Stice ordered the video not to be released by Mixon's defense attorney, District Attorney Greg Mashburn or Norman police, several news organizations reported.

But just a day later, Stice issued an order clarifying that they were not restricted "from complying with the law as it pertains to unrelated third parties."

"This order was not nor is it intended to restrict members of the public from seeking and acquiring any material allowed by law," Stice wrote. "In this regard, the litigants and their agents are free to apply their policies and procedures for considering such requests."

Maybe the public will get to see now the video that OU officials got to view on the morning of the arraignment, apparently before Stice issued his original order.

Mashburn told The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel that OU President David Boren, Athletics Director Joe Castiglione and football coach Bob Stoops came to see him wanting to know what the investigation had revealed. 

According to Tramel's column Saturday, "Mashburn filled them in, they asked to see the much-discussed video tape and Mashburn complied."

That's the same Mashburn who had refused to release the video to the public after filing the charge. He told reporters that the video was evidence that had to be kept confidential until the trial.

"That way the first people that see it are the jurors that don’t have any knowledge of what happened," Mashburn said Aug. 15.

On Aug. 18, the OU officials paid Mashburn a visit. Later that day, Mixon pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge of an act resulting in gross injury and those OU officials suspended him from the team for the season.

The surveillance video became a public record the moment that Mixon was charged on Aug. 15. I've explained why in two previous postings, so here is the short version.

The Open Records Act makes public the “facts concerning the arrest, including the cause of arrest and the name of the arresting officer.” (OKLA. STAT. tit. 51, § 24A.8(2))

Under that provision, law enforcement agencies must make public any videotape they have of an incident that shows the cause of an arrest, Oklahoma courts have ruled.

In 2012, for example, a Washington County judge ordered Bartlesville police to provide the local newspaper with a copy of hospital surveillance video that had led to the arrest of two officers.

The Mixon video is no different from that video under the Open Records Act.

News media had already requested the video from Norman police prior to the arraignment. I am sure they are asking again for copies.

If Norman police officials refuse those requests, they are asking for a lawsuit they're sure to lose. And Norman taxpayers will be picking up the cost for that decision.

To read the longer explanations, click on:

Stice is a candidate in the Nov. 4 election for the newly created district judgeship for Cleveland, McClain and Garvin counties.

The case is State of Oklahoma v. Mixon, Joe, No. CM-2014-1774 (Cleveland Co. Aug. 15, 2014).


Joey Senat, Ph.D. Associate Professor OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, or its board of directors. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.