Judge prohibits release of police photos of woman allegedly assaulted by OSU football player

A Payne County judge ordered Stillwater city officials on Monday not to release photos showing injuries to a pregnant woman who police say was choked and punched last week by her boyfriend, Oklahoma State University football star Tyreek Hill.

Judge Phillip C. Corley also prohibited the release of the woman’s name and other personal information. But her name had been included in the police incident report distributed to the news media Friday. The Oklahoman included her name in two stories on Tuesday (1 and 2).

District Attorney Tom Lee requested the court order, which circumvents state appellate court rulings that could have been interpreted as requiring the release of the photos as “facts concerning the arrest.”

On Friday, at least one television station — KWTV News 9 in Oklahoma City — had requested digital copies of photographs taken of the woman’s injuries. Police had taken the photos at the Stillwater Medical Center late Thursday. On Monday, City Attorney John E. Dorman cited Corley’s order when denying KWTV’s request.

The statute Corley relied upon doesn’t specify that photos or even names can be kept secret. Rather, it allows a judge to order that “the residential address, telephone number, place of employment, or other personal information of the victim” be withheld from “any law enforcement record or any court document, other than the transcript of a court proceeding….” (Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 142A-9

If Corley’s order were challenged, the question would be whether photos of the injuries should be treated as “facts concerning the arrest” or as personal information similar to “residential address, telephone number, place of employment.”

Hill was arrested late last Thursday. On Friday, he was charged with a felony count of domestic abuse by strangulation. He posted a $15,000 bond that night. He is expected to enter a plea at a court appearance scheduled for Jan. 13. Hill faces up to three years in prison and up to a $3,000 fine if convicted. The case is State of Oklahoma v. Hill, Tyreek DShaun, No. CF-2014-765 (Payne Co. Dist. Ct. Dec. 12, 2014).

Hill was released from the OSU football and track teams late Friday. Less than a week earlier, he had been hailed a hero in OSU’s Bedlam victory over the University of Oklahoma. With 45 seconds remaining, he returned a punt 92 yards to tie the game. OSU won in overtime. He was named the Big 12’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year the day before being arrested. Hill won the 200-meter title in the Big 12 indoor meet last spring.

 

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.

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