This is just horrendous news.
Jesse Ventura, the former wrestler, Minnesota governor and truther, won his defamation lawsuit against the estate of late “American Sniper” author and former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle.
Although verdicts in such cases are customarily unanimous, both sides agreed to a split verdict. The verdict of 8 to 2 was reached after more than a week of deliberations. Jurors awarded Mr. Ventura $500,000 for defamation and $1.3 million for what was termed the author’s unjust enrichment.
Mr. Ventura, 63, had sued the estate of Chris Kyle, the former member of the SEALs, saying that his book, “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History,” included passages about Mr. Ventura that were false and defamatory. Mr. Ventura, an outspoken and colorful figure, stunned the nation by winning election as governor of Minnesota against two well-known candidates from the traditional parties. He was governor from 1999 to 2003.
Two weeks ago, I reported on the testimony of witness after witness who said that they heard at least part of Ventura’s ranting and saw parts of the fight. It looked to me like the trial was not going well for him.
One saw him take a punch. Another said he saw him on the sidewalk outside a bar. Another saw him leave with blood on his lips.
Rosemary deShazo, a friend of Chris Kyle’s who attended the wake, testified that she heard Ventura make a disparaging remark about U.S. Navy SEALs similar to the one Kyle described in “American Sniper.”
“He said, ‘They probably deserved it, they die all the time,’ ” she testified.
Under cross-examination DeShazo conceded that she was paraphrasing Ventura. But when asked by Kyle attorney Leita Walker how confident she was about the quote, she responded, “quite confident, very confident.”
DeShazo is a sister of Laura deShazo, who testified Monday that she saw Ventura punched in the bar.
Rosemary deShazo said she did not see a punch, but recalled Ventura’s remarks because of the context. “Unusual things that are emotional stick in your memory. I remember he offended me, offended people I was with.”
I started to worry when the jury took more than a few hours to come to a verdict. Obviously, I wasn’t in the courtroom, but defamation cases are notoriously hard to prove in a court of law:
First of all, you have to prove without a doubt that what was said or written about you is not true. Once you have proved that the statement is in fact false, you have to prove that the other person said the false statement with the intent of causing you some form of harm.
Apparently the jury found the witnesses for Ventura to be more compelling than Kyle’s witnesses, but I still have no idea how this high bar could have been met when there was such conflicting testimony. How on earth did the prosecution prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Kyle told the story with the intent of doing harm to Ventura?
In his deposition, Mr. Kyle said Mr. Ventura had indeed made such comments, and that Mr. Kyle had ended the conversation by punching Mr. Ventura as he described in the book. Several witnesses for Mr. Kyle said that they had overheard the former governor’s negative comments or had seen him on the ground following an altercation, while witnesses for Mr. Ventura said they saw no such confrontation that night.
The NYTs reports that “Mr. Ventura has said that his lawsuit is not about money.” He just wanted an apology and to clear his name.
Not that he has any plans to return the $1.8 million dollars he won against Chris Kyle’s widow and children.
The Kyle family is considering appealing the decision according to Kyle estate attorney John Borger.
During a news conference, he said Kyle’s widow “was very surprised and obviously upset,” when he called to tell her the news.
— Bob Owens (@bob_owens) July 29, 2014