Persons arrested at murder scene but later exonerated cannot sue Mayor for televised comments
Franklin Smith, Brandon Pannell and two other young men sued the Mayor of the City of Taylor for defamation. One of the men, Devin Plummer, was originally fingered by a witness as the shooter, and police alleged that he confessed. The others were present at the shooting and arrested as accomplices. They were later exonerated when police identified and convicted a fifth man of the shooting. After the four men were released, their families appeared at a City Council meeting to demand an apology.The City declined their demand and afterward, the Mayor made a fairly inflammatory statement to the media, repudiating the demand. The men then sued the Mayor for defamation. The Court ruled that as the chief executive of the governmental entity, the Mayor enjoyed absolute immunity for his statements. It rejected the plaintiffs' arguments that the Mayor was not commenting in his official capacity and that his actions were statutory violations and ultra vires.