Parents suing Facebook over photo of murdered daughter

Parents suing Facebook over photo of murdered daughter

Summary: A mother and father are suing Facebook over a photo of their murdered daughter that was uploaded to the social network.

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Martha Wimmer and Ronald Wimmer, mother and father of Caroline Wimmer, are suing Facebook after a photo of their daughter's strangled body was posted on the social network by 46-year-old New York City paramedic Mark Musarella (pictured left). Prosecutors said Brooklyn resident Calvin Lawson killed the 26-year-old woman (pictured right) on March 28, 2009, over allegations that she'd told his girlfriend, the mother of his two children, on Myspace that he was cheating on her with another woman. He was sentenced to 25 years to life.

Yesterday was the two-year anniversary of Caroline's murder. She was found in her apartment two days after being brutally strangled with her hair dryer, according to CBS New York.

In addition to the social network, the parents are suing Musarella, the EMT who took pictures with his BlackBerry and posted them on Facebook, his employer, Richmond University Medical Center, Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano, the Fire Department of New York, and the owners of the apartment building Caroline lived in for not properly securing their property. Musarella was fired from his job and agreed to be stripped of his EMT license as well as to never again work as an EMT, in exchange for no jail time and 200 hours of community service.

The Wimmers aren't demanding money from Facebook (federal law limits them to asking for injunctive relief because the site is considered a "nonprofit community bulletin board"), but they do want the company to give them the pictures, delete them from its servers, as well as turn over details about anyone who saw and downloaded them. The family is, however, seeking unspecified monetary compensation from Richmond University Medical Center and the City of New York.

"In Caroline's case, pictures were taken without her consent by an EMT that was trespassing when he took his sick and illegal pictures ... Facebook displayed them to its members and allowed them to download the same," Ravi Batra, the Wimmers' lawyer, said in a statement. Batra also suggested that Facebook should hire more people to screen what is being uploaded to the site. "If they’re uploading 10 million pictures a month, they need more screeners. We need future victims, if there are any, to [be able to] hold Facebook accountable."

Facebook has denied the allegations and refused to comply with the suit's demands. "As to Facebook, the case is without merit and we will fight it vigorously," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

"I'm just very upset and traumatized over all this," Caroline's mother said yesterday while announcing the lawsuits. "I haven't had a chance to heal yet. This is the second anniversary. We really need to improve our laws in New York...My daughter's picture was on the Internet and I can't get it back."

Topics: Social Enterprise, Collaboration

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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25 comments
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  • Itching attorneys

    May the fleas from a thousand camels infest the bed of every lawyer involved in this.
    Robert Hahn
    • RE: Parents suing Facebook over photo of murdered daughter

      @Robert Hahn

      And you save none for the creeps who posted a picture of a murdered woman on Facebook?
      Michael Kelly
      • RE: Parents suing Facebook over photo of murdered daughter

        @Michael Kelly

        With all due respect, pictures of murdered people are part of the public record. There is nothing wrong with posting them except in the minds of people who are a little too brainwashed by society.
        Lerianis10
  • RE: Parents suing Facebook over photo of murdered daughter

    Why not also sue RIM for putting a camera on the BlackBerry?

    One person, and one person alone, was responsible for this. That person, and that person alone, needs to be held accountable.
    aep528
    • RE: Parents suing Facebook over photo of murdered daughter

      @aep528
      and sue the company who made the camera for them... and the companies who made the circuitry for the camera.. and maybe even the guy who invented the concept of a camera that can fit in a pocket and be used quickly...
      doh123
    • RE: Parents suing Facebook over photo of murdered daughter

      @aep528 .. How is facebook not responsible? So I can throw a music sharing site up allow anyone to post anything they want and not be responsible? Rubbish.. Facebook is for profit and they have no qualm exploiting anything and everything about anyone for it. The excuse that they have to many users is a poor one at best.
      MStalnecker
      • but didn't the courts rule...

        @MStalnecker

        that Limewire, Kazaa aren't responsible for the actions done by all of the pirates using their site?
        UrNotPayingAttention
    • Exactly.

      @aep528 <br><br>Or AT&T for providing the 3G service to send the pic. (doh, wait, this is NYC, AT&T skirted by that one!)<br><br>Seriously though... they are asking for the same breach of privacy that they are suing for: <i>as well as turn over details about anyone who saw and downloaded them.</i><br><br>And, suing the NYFD? the owners of the apartment bldg? Hey, what happened to their family is a tragedy, but going to that extreme only hurts their case.
      UrNotPayingAttention
  • RE: Parents suing Facebook over photo of murdered daughter

    Way to make money off your daughter's corpse you vultures!
    Bates_
    • RE: Parents suing Facebook over photo of murdered daughter

      @Bates_ <br><br>you saw where they arent asking for money from FB right? i can see where ensuring the pictures are deleted and getting a copy of them to ensure nothing like it pops up again. As to getting the information of anyone who viewed them and downloaded? well, sort of like when copyrighted material is put out on the net. They dont necessarily go after the people that got it, but the distributor of it themselves.

      FB should do what they can to keep it out of the courts. The general public isnt always happy with the way they handle themselves and they might not like any verdict.
      tiderulz
      • RE: Parents suing Facebook over photo of murdered daughter

        @tiderulz My comment was vague and to the point. I don't care who they are trying to get money out of it, they are still vultures end of story. I hate FB as it is, I hope in the end they have to fork over some money.
        Bates_
    • My thoughts exactly

      @Bates_
      The EMT should get the boot for sure, and lose his license for actions outside his job description, so no cpomplaints there.

      At the same time I don't belive their is a law against photographing a dead body and posting it on Facebook (or anywhere) if it was taken in a public place.

      And whats this BS about: [i] as well as turn over details about anyone who saw and downloaded them[/i]

      What are they going to try next, sue those people too for looking at them?

      I'm with you on this particular lawsuit, they sound like a couple of vultures hoping to make millions off of this, as sad as that sounds.
      John Zern
      • &quot;if it was taken in a public place.&quot;

        @John Zern

        According to the story, it was taken at the murder scene, which was her apartment, not in a public place.
        msalzberg
  • RE: Parents suing Facebook over photo of murdered daughter

    This is not only deplorable, it is cyberbullying. The EMT got off easy, in my opinion. No deal should have been made - he should have had all those things AND done jail time. My heart goes out to the Wimmer family.
    lissa77
    • RE: Parents suing Facebook over photo of murdered daughter

      @lissa77 Agreed that he got off too easy and she have been nailed to the cross for this, but suing everyone else and their cousin just because of greed is a different matter.

      Yes, it is nothing more than greed on the parent's part otherwise they would focus more on the EMT.
      balsover
  • Sue Bloomberg

    She's dead because Bloomberg infringed on her right to self defense. I say sue him personally, and execute his well-fed a$$.
    goingbust
  • RE: Parents suing Facebook over photo of murdered daughter

    Horrible! FacePLANT should be shut down.
    james347
  • RE: Parents suing Facebook over photo of murdered daughter

    Only the jerk who posted it should be called out. What the hell did Facebook do?

    Money grubbing trolls. You suck as parents.
    timspublic1@...
  • Sue Al Gore too.

    For inventing the Internet and making the upload possible.

    I'd also suggest suing the company that made the hair dryer that was used to strangle her.

    I'm going to be suing CBS for posting this story. I didn't like it.
    savemeaslice@...
  • RE: Parents suing Facebook over photo of murdered daughter

    I love it - Facebook can't be sued for money because they are a non profit bulletin board. And I can see why Suckerburg wants to keep it that way. <br><br>But, money and suing and camel fleas in lawyer's beds aside. I know the parents are hurting, but what good will taking the picture off FB do? Even if FB complies, I am sure the picture is out there on every social network site, and indeed off the cloud stored in individual computers all over the place. What a futile exercise.
    tora201