NY Facebook murder photo inspires bill

Bill would make it a felony for an on-duty responder to take a picture, video of a crime scene for private use

By Stephanie Lee
The Times-Union

ALBANY, N.Y. — Two years after a medical responder posted a Facebook photo of a murdered Staten Island woman, state lawmakers are pushing to beef up the penalties for such acts.

A group of Staten Island legislators, including the members of the Senate's Independent Democratic Conference, introduced bills in the Senate and Assembly on Wednesday that would make it a felony for an on-duty public servant to take a picture or video of a crime scene for private use, such as Facebook distribution.

Under current state law, the maximum penalty is a misdemeanor.

The bill's sponsors are calling it "Caroline's Law," in remembrance of 26-year-old Caroline Wimmer, who in March 2009 was found in her apartment strangled with a hair-dryer cord. Mark Musarella, an EMT responding to the scene, snapped a shot of her body with his cellphone and uploaded it to Facebook.

The action provoked the family to sue the social networking site, demanding it turn over the image and destroy copies in its possession. Musarella was fired and charged with a misdemeanor before he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct. He served 200 hours of community service.

In an emotional speech during a news conference at the Capitol, Wimmer's mother, Marti Wimmer, said, "Who is the monster that took my daughter's beaten body and put it on Facebook, and won't give it back to me?"

"No first responders have the right to do this," she continued, her eyes full of tears. "If this was your child, wouldn't you feel the way I do?"

The law wouldn't apply to photographers who are authorized by police to take photos for evidence, but rather workers who snap shots "outside of the course of conduct of the public servant's official duties."

Sen. Diane Savino, Assemblyman Michael Cusick, Sen. Andrew Lanza, Sen. Jeff Klein and other legislators said the law should be brought up to speed with the instantaneous pace of 21st-century technology.

"Those professionals who are responding must always be mindful of the integrity of the scene," said Lanza, a co-sponsor of the bill. "More than that, when the scene involves the death of a human being, that scene must be treated with respect, and dare I say tenderness. And tenderness was lacking two years ago."

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