Secrecy shrouds slaying of northwest Oklahoma City woman
Oklahoma City police have released few details surrounding the beating death of Julie Mitchell, and open government experts are criticizing their lack of openness.
BY BRYAN DEAN •
Published: November 13, 2010
t city police incident reports include summaries of what officers found when they arrived at a crime scene, dialogue between officers and witnesses, and in the case of a murder, the circumstances of how the body was found.Citty said such details would have been blacked out from the official report if the officer had included them.â€œWe would have redacted the body in the closet and other information in that report,â€ Citty said. â€œIn a murder case, you donâ€™t have a lot of details of what occurred.â€Open government experts said police arenâ€™t allowed to disregard state law even in a murder case.â€œPolice need to solve crimes, but the public wants to know when their friends and neighbors are murdered, and they deserve more than they are getting,â€ said Mark Thomas, executive director of the Oklahoma Press Association.Thomas advocated for a bill the Legislature passed earlier this year requiring police release incident reports whether or not an arrest has been made. Thomas said the law was intended to give people the basic facts of a crime.â€œNormally, we pass laws, and the crooks find a way around it,â€ Thomas said. â€œWith this, itâ€™s the police. Thatâ€™s just not acceptable.â€Doug Wilson, a Stillwater attorney who has litigated open records cases, read the report released by police and called it â€œsilly.â€â€œThey are clearly going to some length to not give up any substantive information,â€ Wilson said. â€œThe offense that needs to be reported is what the first officers on the scene encountered. Itâ€™s not what the third officer witnesses when he shows up.â€Wilson said violation of the Open Records Act is a misdemeanor, but it is rarely enforced, especially against law enforcement.â€œIf you had district attorneys out there that were enforcing the open record and open meeting laws the same way they enforced burglary or drug laws, it would be a different story,â€ Wilson said. â€œEverybody is subject to the law. If anyone is going to set an example for following the law, it ought to be law enforcement.â€