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”
From article: “….the girls in the bathtub — a common picture for parents to preserve memories (and later torture their adult children).”
As well as the naked baby on the bed, or a fur rug, or a blanket? Those were normal for a professional photographer to take when you took your baby to a studio for their first baby pics. I have a couple of those of me in my parent’s box of photos. Naked baby/infant/young child pictures have been around forever. Frankly’s assessment is pretty spot on IMO.
Hey how about we all sue Walmart for not having any suitable one piece swim suit for young children if parents want to maintain their childs modesty?
I put far more blame on the police and state’s attorneys who went forward with the abuse allegations than I do on some dope working at Walmart.
It’s my understanding that the claim against Walmart does not deal with the reporting itself, or the process used. Rather, it alleges that Walmart breached a duty by failing to inform them of its “unsuitable prints” policy.
Wouldn’t it be a rational store policy that before any charges are made to authorities by employees concerning possible child porn, that a supervisor is called in to review the situation? The video seems to indicate that Wal Mart employees should not be held responsible for a non-malicious reporting of suspect pictures. Did a supervisor review them before the police or authorities were called?
Frankly, I remember that case. Unfortunately, there is such an all or nothing response on the part of many when questions like this arise. Given the description I recall (assuming my memory is accurate), I think an investigation was probably called for. The problem comes when we equate investigation with a determination of guilt. Then we get “how dare they investigate” responses when the parent is subsequently determined to be innocent. On the other side, we also get immediate removals without exploring alternatives. A relative who agrees to be vigilant and stay a few days or a parent who agrees to spend a few days at a friend’s during an initial investigation can eliminate any need for removal, depending on the allegations.
I dislike Walmart, but I’m skeptical that they should have any liability here. I feel that what they did was stupid, but not the cause of any harm. The harm resulted from the government investigating and prosecuting the family. Ideally, the government should be liable financially and those individuals responsible for this screw up disciplined and/or terminated. It’s a shame the state has such legal protections in cases like this and that the bureaucracy protects itself.
These kinds of cases escalate way too fast once children’s services are called in. I have been in this business for years, and for the most part, find children’s services investigators way too quick to jump to conclusions. I know one private investigator who does nothing but work on cases involving false allegations of child abuse. Most of those are in the context of ugly custody fights, but a lot of them come about because of overzealous but undertrained investigators.
I have had to report cases of abuse, dependency and neglect several times, since I am a mandatory reporter by both ethical code and statute. But before I report, I do my own investigation to determine if it is indeed a reportable problem. More often than not, something that looks suspicious at first glance turns out to be nothing.
Since the introduction of digital cameras, this kind of problem with film developing services has dropped off. However, some people are unable to download and print their own digital photos, and we are back to the same problem.
There was an incident reported a while back, right after digital cameras were first introduced to the general public. Customer took a CD with photos on it to be printed. The photo guy refused to print the pictures, insisting they were professional shots and therefore were copyrighted–no amateur could take pictures that sharp and that good. Customer could not convince the photo service he took them himself with his new 5 megapixel camera.
Everyone knows the alternate meaning of “assume.”
I think that wal mart might prevail on this due to the immunity on reporting possible crime. But the police and the state, I hope not.
I haven’t seen all of the pictures but if they are the types represented here or on the ABC news link this whole case should have never went beyond an officer looking at the pictures and unless it clearly was child porn, the officer should have just closed the case. But instead they put the parents through the ringer and take away their children because some child protective service employee has a wild hair up their arse.
In all the time I worked as a LEO, and having actually had to work cases with Child Protective Service in this state, I can say with all honesty CPS consistently did more harm than good overall. Their investigators were incompetent and applied bureaucratic politics in deciding how to enforce action against citizens. And anyone who contested their actions (because they were far too often unjustified) was subjected to having their children removed from the home as more revenge than protecting the children. I saw this type of crap so frequently It made me loathe to even call them. But if you reported an actual case of child abuse to them, which was required by law, getting a CPS case worker to act was like pulling teeth. Yet they would call our department every once in a while expecting us to act as anything from taxi drivers to bring children from the forster home to their office to demanding we arrest someone to “make an example of them.” Just like in the heated argument I got into with one of their case workers because he demanded I arrest a mother who only slapped her daughter for misbehaving, causing no injury or mark, despite my repeatedly telling him this was not a violation of the law.
So when I read articles such as this all it does is make me angry.
“CPS, where you are guilty until proven innocent”
There was a case against the coach of the Minnesota State Mankato football team for taking pics of his kids. Depending on who you believed they were either just kids being silly or deeply sick. Without seeing the pictures it is impossible to judge for ourselves.
The court finally ruled they were not porn but the school has not given him his job back.
In San Diego there is a case ( not reported in the local San Diego paper) that is shedding light on cases such as these, especially younger adoptable age children. The system and the employees make money from it and justify it’s existence. Often claims of drugs are involved which bring in other agencies in need of justification. The victims are usually poor without the ability to defend themselves. They are offered the opportunity of no jail if they surrender their kids. Sounds like a plot to a movie. The drug charges may affect their ability to have a driving license which impairs the ability to get a job which impairs the ability to pay for defense.
I agree there were destructive failures in the investigation of this case and the detention. However, some of the photos, at least as described in the police report, fall outside the typical photos at bathtime. I tried to find a link to the investigative report, but couldn’t. Someone else may be more successful.
Welcome to our sex-negative police state. Regrettably, the time has long since passed that either were titter-worthy.
Why didn’t the police and the prosecutor stop? Because they saw it as an easy win. Thank goodness the judge was not insane. One of the biggest problems we have in this country is that people exercise no common sense or judgement. Instead of thinking about what they are doing they only think hiwnhowntheir actions might help them.
As to winning this case, I think it is a long shot but I wish them luck.
I do hope the family get a bucket load of money out of this one because they deserve it given the behaviour of all involved.
I also hope all the perpetrators who participated in this sorry tale of outrageous family abuse – from the Walmart employees, the police, those who were responsible for taking the children and the prosecutors – all die an incredibly painful death.
Can you imagine how traumatic it must have been for the very young chidren when these dumb ass public servants unjustifiably decided to remove the children from the innocent parents and the family home. If you are a parent you will know only too well.
Clearly there are now far too many fools (with some sociopathic tendencies) in postions of power working in the public sector that need to be held to account and then shown the door. The trouble is they will not be.
What of these cretins of Walmart who decided to refer the innocent pictures to the police. Well I guess when you have all these people running the place apparently with an IQ of 50 and less what more would you expect.
When paranoia and ignorance team up …
Actually child safety should be everyone’s business. But that said Americans are horribly hung up on sex. To the point where everything is always about sex. Remember the old Coppertone ads with the dog tugging at a swimsuit to reveal a tan line? Nothing sexual about it but they got a lot of complaints so you won’t see those any more.
Or how about the Attorney General of the US having to cover the breasts on statues of justice? The list of this sort of sexualization of everything is very long and speaks to a mental illness in a large portion of the population.
Ridiculous…… Americans need to learn to mind their own damned business!
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