We previously discussed the case of Lisa and Anthony “A.J.” Demaree who had their three children taken away from them after a Walmart employee reported them to the police as child pornographers for innocent pictures in a bathtub on a vacation. The absurd reaction of Walmart led to their then 5, 4 and 1 1/2 year old daughters being taken away for a month and put the family through a ridiculous criminal process due to the equally negligent acts of the police and prosecutors. Their case is now before the Ninth Circuit in seeking to be able to present their claims to a jury.
Their case is unfortunately not unique (here and here). However, they are doing something about it by suing Walmart.
The couple had simply sent 144 pictures from their vacation to Walmart in Peoria when a developer at the store noticed some naked pictures of the girls in the bathtub — a common picture for parents to preserve memories (and later torture their adult children).
The police continued to persecute this family despite medical evaluations that showed no signs of sexual abuse and an obvious explanation from the parents. A Maricopa County Superior Court judge ultimately ruled that the photographs were not, in fact, pornographic.
In 2009, the couple sued Walmart for failing to tell them that they had an “unsuitable print policy” and could turn over photos to law enforcement without the customer’s knowledge. However, a federal judge ruled for Walmart on the grounds that the employee was reporting what she believed as a crime of child pornography. The Demarees appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which just heard their appeal on March 6th. Walmart is arguing immunity again for reporting a crime. The couple has also sued the city of Peoria and the State Attorney General’s office for defamation.
Walmart has the advantage in the lawsuit and the defamation lawsuit is equally a challenge. My greatest concern is the lack of discipline for the officers and prosecutors responsible for maintaining these charges. Within minutes of speaking with the parents, it should have been obvious that these were innocent pictures of sisters in a tub. Yet, no one took it upon themselves to protect this family from a clearly frivolous charge.
22 thoughts on “Couple Appeals Case Against Walmart for Reporting Them To Police As Child Pornographers For Innocent Family Pictures”
Walmart did nothing wrong. They saw what they thought might have been a crime, they reported it. Period. The police, prosecutors, and whoever authorized the removal of the children are the ones who screwed up.
Do you really propose that anyone (including yourself) who reports what might be a crime to the police be liable for any actions that result from that report if there was no criminal activity?
The idea that Walmart breached a duty by failing to inform them of its “unsuitable prints” policy is silly. Even if they did, the family probably wouldn’t have thought the images were unsuitable. Even without an official policy they very well may have reported it as being suspicious.
You don’t have to state you have a policy that you’ll report any suspicious activities. That is standard behavior. In fact your local police and the federal government itself all ask that you do report any suspicious activities. Sometimes the reported actions end up being innocent. Other times they don’t. We just don’t hear about the cases where they prevented a crime.
The law enforcement report, which contained a separate description of each photograph involved, describes some photographs that are not as obviously benign as many articles on this story suggest. The report can be found at the end of this blog post: http://funnybusiness.typepad.com/funnybusiness/2009/09/peoria-arizona-police-release-report-on-demarees—walmart-photo-case-tells-a-different-story.html
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