Courthouse News brings us this lawsuit filed two days ago in Dallas County District Court: John Tatum and Mary Ann Tatum v. The Dallas Morning News, inc. and Steve Blow. At issue is this column, which appeared in the paper on July 12, 2010: "Shrouding suicide in secrecy leaves its danger unaddressed."
In it, the paper's longtime Metro columnist used the death of two men to illustrate how, in his words, "we're down to just one form of death still considered worthy of deception," suicide. He referred specifically to Ted Pillsbury, the former Kimbell Art Museum director who shot himself, though his death was initially reported as a heart attack. Blow then mentioned another, though not by name, only as a "popular high school student" whose "death came from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a time of remorse afterward." Blow also referred to his family's paid obituary that ran in the paper that said the boy had died after sustaining injuries in a car crash.
That student was Jesuit's Paul Tatum, whose parents brought the suit and insist in the complaint that their son had no history of mental illness and that his decision to put a gun to his head in the early morning hours of May 18, 2010, stemmed solely from what they believe to be "a traumatic brain injury from the high-speed accident that stripped his inhibitions, which (coupled with alcohol usage) sent him into an irrational and impaired state that made him unable to appreciate the risks and significance of the handling of a firearm."
John Tatum, of course, is the developer about whom we've written before. And his wife Mary Ann Tatum is a noted local child psychologist. They are saying the paper defamed them by "suggesting that the plaintiffs were somehow responsible for Paul's death by failing to come to terms with his alleged mental illness and that plaintiffs had done a disservice to others by failing to use Paul's obituary as a platform to educate the world about mental illness and suicide."
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