CINCINNATI -- The Ohio Supreme Court sided with Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters Tuesday in a lawsuit Cincinnati local media outlets and the Associate Press filed against the prosecutor's office. The precedent set in the decision said six business days -- 10 days, in this case -- is "reasonable" time for a prosecutor to keep body camera video from the public.
However, the ruling noted that this case "does not set forth a deadline by which public office must respond to a request for copies of public records," and that a "reasonable" amount of time is dependent on each individual case.
"Because the prosecutor was entitled to review the video to determine whether any redaction was necessary and produced the body-camera video six business days after it was initially received by his office, we conclude that he responded in a reasonable period of time," the ruling reads.
WCPO, WLWT, WKRC, WXIX, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the AP sued Deters when he refused to release ex-University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing's body camera footage after he shot and killed Samuel DuBose, an unarmed black driver, in July of 2015. The suit was filed eight days after the shooting.
WCPO and the other outlets argued that Deters violated the Public Records Act by withholding the video; WCPO argued that the body camera video is a public record and the public had a vested interest to see what happened -- with their own eyes. This is necessary to maintain public trust.
"We believe bodycam videos are vitally important pieces of public information that can prove exactly what happened in these types of incidents," one WCPO editorial read. "If law enforcement only releases them when they want to, it taints the transparency that body cameras were, in part, created to improve."
DuBose's family and friends also asked for the video's immediate release.
Deters said he would release the video after the grand jury viewed it, and he did. Deters gave the video to news outlets and played it at a press conference held to announce Tensing's grand jury indictment for murder and voluntary manslaughter. Deters went on to condemn Tensing on live television and said the shooting was "without question, murder."
The video was released July 29, 10 days after the shooting and two days after the suit was filed. The court said the wait -- which they defined as six business days -- was not unreasonable
The Ohio Supreme Court said half of the news organizations -- including WCPO -- did not submit a public records request with the prosecutor's office. Court documents said WCPO requested body camera footage from UCPD and Cincinnati Police Department -- who investigated the shooting -- but did not request the video from the prosecutor's office.
The prosecutor's office did not have to pay damages in the suit because "Mr. Deters acted reasonably," according to spokeswoman Julie Wilson.
For all of WCPO's Tensing trial coverage, visit wcpo.com/tensingtrial