Woman Watched Her Brother's Suicide on Fox
(CN) - Fox News showed a man running from police shoot himself on live television, leaving his sister "severely traumatized" when she saw it, the woman claims in court.
Nature Romero sued News Corp., Fox News Network LLC and several affiliates in Maricopa County Court.
Romero says she flipped her TV to a police chase on the Fox News program "Studio B With Shepard Smith" on Sept. 28, 2012.
"The 80-mile chase ended in the desert near Salome, Arizona," the complaint states. "The driver of the pursued vehicle jumped out of the car and began running through the desert. These events were televised live on 'Studio B' via a feed from the helicopter of the Fox local affiliate in Phoenix."
Though Fox or "Studio B" normally employ a time delay for live feeds so that its technicians can prevent transmission of inappropriate material, "this 'delay', mechanism was either not in place or was not employed during Fox and 'Studio B's' coverage of the September 28 pursuit," according to the complaint. "Viewers of 'Studio B' saw the events unfold at the exact time they happened without the several second delay."
Romero says Smith stopped his running commentary on the chase when the helicopter's camera zoomed in on the fugitive stopping his car.
The complaint states: "Shepard Smith, acknowledging that what was about to occur 'didn't belong on television' began urging his control room to 'get off' - repeating the phrase more than 10 times in rapid succession before yelling 'Get off it!'
"But Fox and 'Studio B' did not 'get off it.'
"The television viewing public watching 'Studio B,' including plaintiff, saw a live full screen broadcast of the driver raising a gun to his head and pulling the trigger. The broadcast of the scene continued as the driver's lifeless body collapsed forward."
Only after the man's body hit the ground did Fox cut back to a full screen of Shepard Smith, Romero says.
"The driver of the pursued vehicle, who ultimately ended his life in the desert, was JoDon Romero, the plaintiff's brother," the complaint states.
Romero says she "has been, and continues to be, severely traumatized as a result of seeing her brother kill himself on live television. At a minimum, the event has caused her to suffer severe emotional distress, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression resulting in severe headaches and sleep loss."
After the suicide "Studio B" cut to a commercial break, and returned with Shepard Smith admitting "the suicide was not newsworthy and 'didn't belong on TV,'" the complaint states.
Fox News went into damage-control mode after the broadcast, Romero says, noting that its senior vice president Michael Clemente issued the following statement: "We took every precaution to avoid any such live incident by putting the helicopter pictures on a five second delay. Unfortunately, this mistake was the result of a severe human error and we apologize for what viewers ultimately saw on the screen."
Romero wants punitive damages for emotional distress and negligence. She also wants Fox to cover her medical expenses arising from the "psychological trauma" of watching her brother's suicide.
Taylor Young of Mandel Young in Phoenix represents Romero.
A Fox News spokesperson told Courthouse News, "We have not seen the lawsuit."