Court dismisses photograph suit

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A man's pro se prisoner suit against the public information officer of a correctional facility and a reporter that he claimed are responsible for his shooting injury was dismissed Tuesday by a U.S. District Court judge. The claims weren't actionable under the prisoner's 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 complaint.

In Shandonn M. Shepherd v. Trevor Wendzoka and Jeff Burton, No. 3:08-cv-605, Shandonn Shepherd filed his suit against Trevor Wendzoka, as PIO of the Elkhart County Correctional Facility, and Jeff Burton, a reporter for the Elkhart Truth newspaper, after he was shot in a drive-by shooting in June following his release from the facility.

Several months earlier, a photograph of Shepherd was released to the media by Wendzoka following a murder in which Tyrus Coleman was sought for questioning. Shepherd claimed the drive-by shooting was in retaliation for his being linked to a murder by the newspaper using his photograph instead of a picture of Coleman.

Shepherd claimed his mother told Burton he had the wrong photograph, but Burton ignored her and published an article with his picture. Shepherd alleged Wendzoka libeled his character and exposed him to risk of injury by releasing his photograph to the media.

However, in 2005, Shepherd had given authorities Coleman's name when he was arrested in an unrelated incident. He was later charged with false informing once police discovered Shepherd's true identity; the photo was never updated with the correct information.

In his suit, Shepherd wanted $750,000 for his medical bills and as a result of his reputation being ruined because of the published photo.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen of Indiana's Northern District dismissed the complaint because claims for slander and defamation aren't actionable under Section 1983, so Shepherd doesn't have a claim against Wendzoka. He also failed to state a claim against Burton because Burton is a newspaper reporter and wasn't acting under color of state law when he printed Shepherd's photograph.


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.