SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A Scripps Ranch mother who sued the county of San Diego for releasing an autopsy photo of her dead toddler has reached a $125,000 settlement with the county.
"It feels good," Brenda Marsh told CBS News 8. "It feels good that to know that no one else will suffer. It is kind of Phillip's little legacy."
Just one week before his third birthday in 1983, Phillip Buell suddenly died. Brenda's then-boyfriend Kenneth Marsh was tried - and convicted - of killing the toddler, after prosecutors argued he had beaten Phillip.
Kenneth Marsh insisted that the death was an accident, after Phillip struck his head after falling off the back of a couch.
After serving 21 years in prison, charges against Kenneth Marsh were ultimately dropped in 2002, after Brenda Marsh, who stuck by him, led the fight for his acquittal.
Once released, Kenneth Marsh took legal action, seeking compensation for being wrongly incarcerated. During that lawsuit, the former prosecutor in the 1983 case, Jay Coulter, leaked one of Phillip's autopsy photos which were still in his possession to the media.
"He said they took them home as mementos," Brenda Marsh said. "To me, that was like taking my little boy's picture home as a trophy to stick on his wall or put on his shelf."
Brenda Marsh sued the county, and Coulter, for violating her and her family's privacy with the release of Phillip's autopsy photo.
"We wanted to remember Phillip as a beautiful little guy like he was," she added, "not as pieces and parts."
While the case was dismissed in federal court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, for the first time, that families have a right to keep other family members' autopsy photos private.
"We call it Phillip's law, even though it's just an amendment to the constitution," Brenda Marsh said, "but as long as the constitution is alive, in my eyes and in my family's eyes, it kind of leaves a little bit of Phillip alive."