Police arrest reporter for photographing dead body

Petoskey News-Review

Michigan State Police charged Damien Leist of the Charlevoix County News with “photographing [a] dead body in a grave,” Brandon Hubbard reports for the Petoskey (Mich.) News-Review. Leist was reporting from the scene of a plane crash and made this video:

The dispute appears to center on whether Leist had police permission to photograph the site. Police say there were still human remains on the scene and they didn’t allow photographs.

Leist says he woke up “late to the game” the morning of the plane crash and called fellow Charlevoix County News reporter Jeff Bossory to the crash site.

Earlier in the morning, several media outlets, including the News-Review, had reporters at the crash site, where deputies escorted — by snowmobile — members of the media to a location where photographs and video were taken at distance.

“I get up there at about 11 o’clock and the party is over,” said Leist, who posted a $5,000 surety bond for his release.

“So, I ask Chuck Vondra if we can go up and take some pictures and he says: ‘No problem at all.’”
Leist says he then went into town with Bossory to “process” what they had for a story. Then about noon, he said, they returned to the crash site.

“The police let us in and we took pictures,” Leist said.

Leist said the deputies let them walk up a plowed trail to the downed airplane.

Michigan’s law dates to the wreck of the laker Edmund Fitzgerald but also covers “covers more general disasters and accidental grave sites such as a mine where “all or a portion of a decedent is located.”

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  • billmarvel

    Avoidance — Nothing is settled in the Bill of Rights. That’s why we have to have courts. Fortunately, the courts have almost always supported photographers in these disputes with police.
    By the way, tprop, Freedom of the Press belongs to every citizen, not just the credentialed few. Thus ordinary citizens who take photos are as protected as the any media photographer. This,too, has been held up by the courts.

  • http://workavoidancelog.com/ Work Avoidance Log

    It was settled, actually, in the Bill of Rights. But that hasn’t deterred police officers and commanders in multiple states, plus their counterparts at the state and federal levels–including the military–from restricting or banning news photographers from capturing images of public employees doing the public’s business on the public’s dime. Sometimes, they cite “ongoing investigation” as the reason, sometimes “safety of officers/passersby/evidence,” sometimes “respect for the victim’s privacy” (respect and privacy should always be top concerns, but they are not for cops at any level to define or enforce).

    There is a lot of this going on in the country, and one excellent chronicler/activist is Carlos Miller, a Miami news photog who channeled his outrage over his wrongful arrest for perpetrating journalism into the eye-opening website, Photography Is Not A Crime, which is conveniently located at photographyisnotacrime.com.

    The Log recommends it highly.

    Back to Work:

  • tprop

    He is a reporter……?
    That’s Very Funny.

  • billmarvel

    Since when do photographers need police permission to photograph anything? Hasn’t this been settled (again and again) in the courts?

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