Sarah Palin lost her libel trial against The New York Times on Tuesday but a question lingers about whether she was treated fairly.
Palin, a 2008 GOP candidate for vice president, is not beloved by the powers that be. She is a gun-toting hick from Alaska who is not well read and who makes hokie references to “hockey moms” and “lipstick on a pig.” Palin, a former Alaska governor, is especially loathed by Harvard grads and urban elites.
Still, the beauty of the American justice system is that even the most despised are entitled to basic fairness and justice under the law.
It rankles that U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, 78, the semi-retired judge who presided over the trial, announced Monday that Palin had not met the high standard for malice to prevail in the case. He said he would dismiss the case regardless of the jury’s verdict.
The jury was deliberating at the time. Reuters reported Wednesday that jurors received phone notifications that the judge had decided to dismiss the case regardless of their verdict. Clearly Judge Rakoff’s pronouncement could have prejudiced the jury.
Timing Is Everything
It was Judge Rakoff’s job to tell the jury what the law is and the jury’s job to apply the law to the facts in the case.
The jury was in the process of deciding whether the NYT showed actual malice in 2017 when it published a preposterous allegation that a political ad by Palin’s political action committee incited the 2011 shooting of former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and 18 others at a constituent meeting in Tucson. Indeed, the editorial said “the link to political incitement was clear.” The editorial was written by two NYT editorial writers and cleared by a NYT fact checker.
Continue reading “What Does The Palin Verdict Really Mean?”
Almost the entire staff of a New York University student newspaper resigned recently after their advisor said they couldn’t use the term “murder” to describe the police shooting of Breonna Taylor.
Abby Hofstetter, 21, the managing editor of Washington Square News, quit in protest, followed by 43 other staff members. In a statement, they said the advisor, Prof. Kenna Griffin, an expert on student publications, was insensitive to black students.
According to the statement: “An editor stood up to Dr. Griffin’s demands and refused to edit out the word ‘murder’ from our article about Breonna Taylor’s murder at the hands of Louisville cops. Dr. Griffin demanded the Managing Editor discipline them, as she ‘didn’t want to have a full deal publicly.’”
The situation is ludicrous but it is no wonder at a time when supposedly respectable newspapers blur the line between the editorial page and the opinion section. A case in point is the New York Times’ 1619 Project; overwhelming evidence shows the series falsely asserts that America fought the Revolutionary War to protect slavery. Yet, it won a Pulitzer Prize.
Murder is a Legal Term
What the NYU students apparently fail to grasp is that “murder” is a legal term defined by state statute. Generally, a person is guilty of murder when s/he has been convicted in a court of law for intentionally causing the death of another person. Intent is established through admission or evidence and decided by a jury.
A newspaper could be sued for libel for publishing an article calling someone a murderer who has not met the condition precedent – conviction of the crime in a court of law.
The most sacred principle in America’s criminal jurisprudence is that a person is innocent until proven guilty.
Continue reading “NYU Flap Highlights The Absurd State of Today’s Media”