Nearly twenty months ago, OU football star Joe Mixon was involved in a case of physical assault involving a female student. The incident was captured by a camera located in Pickleman’s Gourmet Cafe. Accessibility of this footage has, until recently, been restricted to news reporters and law enforcement. However, a recent court ruling might grant the public access to the video.
A police report of the footage describes Mixon as having aggressively approached the female student, who responded by slapping him. Mixon then “struck her on the left side of her face with his closed right fist, knocking her into a table top and then to the ground where she laid motionless.”
Nearly two years ago, news outlets which had requested copies of this surveillance footage were instead allowed to view the recording within the Norman Police Department. Not long after approximately 40 media entities had sent reporters to watch the tapes, the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters received a response to its own request, in which the District Attorney claimed that the footage was no longer in their possession, “as it has been given to the victim.”
After a series of denials and contradictory exchanges between the DA’s office, the NPD and the OAB, the Norman Police Department finally defended its refusal of the OAB to access the tapes, thus admitting that the footage was still or at least had been in their possession at the time of OAB’s request.
Among the Norman Police Department’s reasons for not allowing the OAB to view the tapes was the fact that as of November 2014, when the footage was first captured, the city was not legally obligated to release the video.
Furthermore, Mixon was never arrested, “as the person appeared himself to answer for the public offense with which he was charged.” Finally, the video was private property belonging to Pickleman’s cafe, meaning it would have been unlawful of the NPD to retain the tapes. After a Cleveland county judge sided with the city, the OAB appealed the ruling.
Now, two years later, Oklahoma courts have concluded that “the trial court erred in dismissing OAB’s petition,” ruling that the footage be made public record.
While I agree that the footage should have been public access from the time of its recording, I question whether the conclusion of this case should be triumphed, especially considering its timing. After all, the case is, at this point, two years old. What kind of precedent does it set if a court is allowed to attempt to right its wrongs after the fact at the expense of its defendants?
Admittedly, I don’t regret the controversy this case will bring to Joe Mixon himself. When facing questions regarding the abuse, he comes off as remorseless—perhaps even cocky. A tweet of his from 2015 dedicates his performance that season to his ‘haters.’ To worsen this is his reluctance to admit his mistake. In response to reporters he calls himself a good person, with no regrets. He seems content in digging a hole for himself.
I regret, instead, the ability that rulings similar to this one could have in opening up old wounds. In cases where defendants or past criminals have paid their dues to society, usually greater than the simple one-season suspension faced by Joe Mixon, releasing the footage of their crimes might only be effective in reinvigorating a social stigma against them.
A genuinely repentant individual could face the indignity of having their past wrongdoings posted for little more than public consumption. It’s easy to watch a video a few minutes long and condemn someone’s entire life.
In cases like this, where the footage is made public long after the trial concluded, it serves no real purpose. Had the footage been released at the time of the initial incident, the uproar that would have ensued might have earned Mixon more than a slap on the wrists and a time-out from football. Today, however, little good can come from its publicity.