Point: It’s the Media’s Right to Share Randy Travis’ 2012 Arrest Video
Sometimes there's a difference between what the law says is okay and what your gut or heart tells you is okay. That's certainly the case when it comes to the release and dissemination of video footage of Randy Travis' 2012 DWI arrest: Although many people's guts and hearts will tell them that sharing that footage is an awful thing to do, according to the law, it's perfectly fine.
Both The Boot and Taste of Country have already made the editorial decision to not run the video, should a federal court rule in favor of its release. From our point of view, it's pandering and gets us nothing but additional pageviews. Unlike, for example, sharing audio from Troy Gentry's recent fatal helicopter crash -- which revealed that the helicopter was experiencing mechanical troubles -- the video footage of Travis' 2012 DWI arrest does not add to the known details of the incident.
Sometimes there's a difference between what the law says is okay and what your gut or heart tells you is okay.
That said, a number of media outlets have made Freedom of Information Act requests for the footage in question, and they're well within their rights to do so. They'll also be well within their rights to post and / or air said footage if it's released.
When Travis pleaded guilty to DWI in January of 2013, a judge agreed that both the video footage of and transcript from his arrest should not be made public; however, the Texas attorney general’s office ruled in May of that year that that judge didn’t have the discretion to prevent the video from being released. In the four years since, Travis' legal team has continued to appeal the decision to release the video: After that May ruling, Travis quickly filed a lawsuit to prevent the footage's release.
Two months after that first lawsuit was filed, in July of 2013, Travis suffered a life-threatening stroke, from which he continues to recover. That timing is important. Although in their most recent lawsuit, filed in mid-September in an Austin, Texas, federal court, Travis' legal team specifically states that "the [ordered] release of such highly embarrassing information to the media [is] inappropriate in light of the fact [Travis] can no longer speak cogently and is not even in the position to discuss, let alone defend, his previous actions," at the time of his DWI arrest, Travis had not yet had his stroke.
Travis could speak for himself when he committed the offense. He could speak for himself when he pleaded guilty. And he could speak for himself when that first lawsuit -- which a judge overruled -- was filed.
What happened to Travis is heartbreaking ... but the law doesn't change because of his stroke or let emotion play into rulings.
Both pre- and post-stroke, those ruling on the issue of the video footage's release have time and again shot down Travis' lawyers' arguments. What happened to Travis is, without a doubt, heartbreaking, and watching his recovery has been nothing short of inspiring. But the law doesn't change because of his stroke; it also doesn't let emotion play into rulings.
If Travis and his legal team want the video of his arrest to stay private, they should work to change the law, not continue to file appeal after appeal. Until then, they should let the court's rulings stand, and let the media do what they're legally allowed to do.
The Boot and Taste of Country’s collaborative Point / Counterpoint series features staff members from the two sites debating topics of interest within country music once per month. Check back on Nov. 20 for another installment.
Country Music's Nastiest Lawsuits
5 Lessons We've Learned From Randy Travis