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.
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.