Paper wants judge to set aside libel verdict

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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A Terre Haute newspaper is asking the judge who presided over a libel trial against the paper to set aside the $1.5 million jury verdict. The Tribune-Star Publishing Company Inc., which produces the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, filed its 39-page brief to support a motion to correct errors Aug. 22 in Sullivan Circuit Court.

In July, a jury awarded Clay County Sheriff's Deputy Jeff Maynard $500,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages in his defamation suit against the newspaper, Jeff Maynard v. Tribune-Star Publishing Company Inc., No. 77C01-0407-CT-219. Maynard filed the suit in response to articles published in the Tribune-Star in 2004 regarding sworn allegations of misconduct by the officer after a traffic stop. The allegations were eventually found to be false, which the Tribune-Star also reported on; that story is not included in Maynard's defamation suit.

In its motion to correct errors, the Tribune-Star says there was not "clear and convincing evidence" the articles written about the allegations against Maynard were published with actual malice, and the articles "accurately and neutrally reported the allegations of police misconduct and the ensuing investigation."

Even if there was evidence of constitutional actual malice and other elements of defamation, the paper argues the jury's damage award was excessive and violates the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

The paper claims its coverage of the allegations against Maynard is protected by the doctrine of neutral reportage, as applied in Indiana in Woods v. Evansville Press Co. Inc., 791 F.2d 480, 488 (7th Cir. 1986), which addressed the media's right to publish stories about ongoing investigations or allegations made about public officials or figures.

Affirmation of the verdict will have a chilling effect on citizens and newspapers to make or report allegations of misconduct of public officials or criminal investigations out of fear they may be subject to a defamation suit, the brief states.

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  1. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  2. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.

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  5. He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless [ ] Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. GOD BLESS THE GOVERNORS RESISTING! Count on the gutless judiciary to tie our children down and facilitate the swords being drawn across their throats. Wake Up America ...