Photo: Adrian Clark via Flickr
The violent death of a loved one can be even more crushing if crime-scene or autopsy photos are splashed all over the Web and on TV.In fact, a parent’s right to stop the media from releasing these private and gruesome images is constitutionally protected, a federal appeals court in California found Tuesday.
“Few things are more personal than the graphic details of a close family member’s tragic death,” the court found.
The Ninth Circuit was weighing in on Brenda Marsh’s suit against former San Diego District Attorney Jay Coulter over his release of her allegedly murdered son’s autopsy photos to a newspaper and TV station.
Marsh’s 2-year-old son, Philip Buell, died of a severe head trauma and her then-boyfriend went to prison for second-degree murder. However, his conviction was overturned.
The former San Diego DA — who had kept an autopsy photo as a memento — then released the image to the media along with a piece called “What really happened to Philip Buell?” according to the court opinion.
The appeals court ruled Tuesday the U.S. Constitution protects parents’ right to stop this kind of release. But Coulter’s position as a public official makes him immune from the suit, the appeals court ruled, ultimately siding with the ex-DA.
A representative for the county of San Diego was not immediately available for comment Tuesday, nor was a lawyer for Marsh.
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