If you haven’t been following along with the Joe Mixon story in Oklahoma, you may be confused as to why a court in Oklahoma just now ruled that the video of him punching a female student in 2014 is a matter of public record, and must be released.
To catch up, you need to know that there are three distinct legal matters that arose from that incident: A misdemeanor conviction for Mixon, a civil suit by the victim against Mixon, and a civil suit by the Oklahoma Broadcasters Association against the Norman City Attorney’s office on the grounds that not releasing the surveillance video of the incident violated the Oklahoma Open Records Act.
Today, the Oklahoma City Broadcasters Association won that case, which, if you want to extrapolate, will go down as a win for journalism and transparent government everywhere.
From The Oklahoman:
Justices ordered the judge overseeing that lawsuit to enter a ruling in favor of the association “without delay.”
Despite that language, the video may not become public until after Christmas at the earliest. The city of Norman has 20 days to ask for the Supreme Court to reconsider the decision.
Not in dispute is that two years ago at Campus Corner Cafe in Norman, Okla., Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon punched a female student named Amelia Molitor in the face. Surveillance video of the incident resulted in a criminal charge against Mixon, which was resolved with a plea arrangement: A year of probation, 100 hours community service, and cognitive behavior counseling.
In a legally distinct matter, Molitor filed a civil suit against Mixon, who has since apologized to Molitor. It should be noted, however, that in the criminal case he took the rarely invoked Alford plea, allowing him to enter a guilty plea while continuing to assert his innocence.
You following? OK, good, because there is another layer, which brings us the headline news of the day: That the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the surveillance video that implicated Mixon in the first place is a public record and therefore must be released to the public.
Well, broadly speaking, the Oklahoma Open Records Act exists to guarantee the public access formal government records and communications. Every state has some form of this law, with varying degrees of transparency. Police reports, arrest records, budget information, internal communications — without getting too far into the weeds, these are all examples of public records.
In this case, it’s difficult to disagree with the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The surveillance video was critical evidence in a criminal and civil case, and the public interest is served by keeping these things out in the open.