Parents suing Facebook over online image of strangling
FOR any parent, coming to terms with the murder of a loved one is a torturous process.
But an American couple, Martha and Ronald Wimmer, face an added obstacle in coming to terms with the killing of 26-year-old daughter Caroline - the knowledge that an image of her murdered body was posted online.
They are now suing social network site Facebook after a crime-scene photo of Caroline - who was strangled with the cord of a hairdryer - was posted online by a paramedic. He has since apologised and resigned from his job..
The Wimmers allege Facebook is responsible for ongoing distress caused by the original publication of the image and are demanding it surrenders its digital copies and identifies those who might have downloaded it.
"It's very tough to heal when you know that there are sick people out there in the world looking at your dead daughter's image," said Ravi Batra, the Wimmers' lawyer.
"In Caroline's case, pictures were taken without her consent by an emergency medical technician who was trespassing when he took his sick and illegal pictures.
"Facebook displayed them to its members and allowed them to download the same."
The family filed the lawsuit in Staten Island Supreme Court on the second anniversary of Caroline's murder. Her killer, Calvin Lawson, who had a grudge against her, was convicted and jailed for 25 years last year.
The paramedic, Mark Musarella, took the photo on his mobile phone after he was sent to her apartment following an emergency call from her parents. They discovered her body after driving 110 miles from their home in Greentown, Pennsylvania having not heard from her for several days.
The grisly photo showed her battered body lying face up on her living-room floor with the hairdryer cord round her neck.
Musarella, 46, a former employee of the City of New York and also a defendant in the Wimmers' lawsuit, pleaded guilty to misconduct and was sentenced to 200 hours community service two weeks ago.
Prosecutors agreed he should serve no jail time in exchange for surrendering his licence to work as a paramedic.
His lawyer claimed Musarella posted the image by accident when trying to upload another, and that it was quickly removed.
Experts in internet law believe the Wimmers stand little chance of success, mainly because Facebook is protected in the US by the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which grants broad immunity to social media sites."It's a horrible thing that happened to this family but the law is pretty conclusive when it says that a website is not responsible for content generated by its members," said Professor William McGeveren, an expert in communications legislation at the University of Minnesota.
"Ultimately, the law says that the only one responsible for what the paramedic did was the paramedic himself."
Andrew Noyes, for Facebook, said: "The case is without merit. We will fight it vigorously."
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 2 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 21 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West