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Claim over use of woman's photo as illustration must go to trial

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  1. Libel and Privacy

    NMU         NEW YORK         Libel         Dec 18, 2000    

Claim over use of woman’s photo as illustration must go to trial

  • A state appellate court ruled that whether the photo illustration is defamatory is an issue that cannot be dismissed by a judge before trial.

A ruling by a New York state court on Dec. 14 will permit a woman to proceed with a claim against a newspaper published by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

The Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division (1st Dept.) ruled The Final Call was not entitled to dismiss a case brought by Tatia Mosette, whose photo was altered to look like she was a prison inmate. The court ruled that a fact finder needed to decide whether the pictures fairly implied that Morsette was a criminal.

On the front page and two other pages, the newspaper printed doctored photos of Morsette to illustrate an article about the negative consequences to society of mothers in prison. The illustration depicted Morsette in a prison uniform with an identification number.

The article did not identify Morsette or expressly accuse her of a criminal act. In a later edition, the newspaper clarified that the photographs were for illustrative purposes and not intended to convey the impression that Morsette was either a mother or incarcerated.

The intermediate level court also noted that special damages need not be proven if the photos were found to imply that she was a criminal.

(Morsette v. The Final Call; Media Counsel: Barbara Emmanuel Pershay) DB

© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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