(NEW YORK) — A federal jury in New York on Tuesday has rejected former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s libel suit against the New York Times a day after a judge said he will dismiss the case no matter what verdict was reached.
The jury informed Judge Jed Rakoff that after a little over two days of deliberations it found The New York Times was not liable for defaming Palin.
The jury’s decision follows Rakoff’s announcement on Monday to attorneys in the case that he will set aside the verdict and dismiss the lawsuit because Palin had not met the high standard of showing The Times had acted with “actual malice” when it published an editorial that erroneously linked Palin’s political action committee to a mass shooting.
In explaining his decision, Rakoff said he believed it is inevitable that the case will be appealed and that such an action would benefit from knowing how the jury’s deliberations turned out.
As she left the courthouse on Monday, Palin said she was puzzled by the judge’s decision.
“This is a jury trial and we always appreciate the system,” Palin told news reporters. “So whatever happened in there usurps the system.”
In a statement published in The Times, the newspaper’s spokeswoman, Danielle Rhoades Ha, called Rakoff’s decision “a reaffirmation of a fundamental tenet of American law” protecting freedom of the press.
“Public figures should not be permitted to use libel suits to punish or intimidate news organizations that make, acknowledge and swiftly correct unintentional errors,” Ha said.
Palin’s legal team said it is considering whether file an appeal.
“We will evaluate our positions,” Palin’s attorney, Ken Turkel, said.
As she entered a car outside the lower Manhattan courthouse Tuesday, Palin was asked by reporters if she will appeal. She replied, “I hope so.”
Palin, 58, sued The Times in 2017, roughly nine years after she was tapped to be Sen. John McCain’s GOP vice presidential nominee, claiming the newspaper deliberately ruined her burgeoning career as a political commentator and consultant by publishing an erroneous editorial she said defamed her.
The editorial that prompted the lawsuit was published on the same day a gunman opened fire on GOP politicians practicing for a congressional charity baseball game in a Washington, D.C., suburb, injuring six, including Republican Rep. Steve Scalise.
Under the headline “America’s Lethal Politics,” The Times’ editorial board wrote on June 14, 2017, that prior to the 2011 Arizona mass shooting that killed six people and left then-Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords with a traumatic brain injury, Palin’s political action committee had fueled a violent atmosphere by circulating a map that put the electoral districts of Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized crosshairs.
Two days later, The Times published a correction saying the editorial had “incorrectly described” the map and “incorrectly stated that a link existed between political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting.”
During the trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Palin portrayed herself as the biblical David going up against the Philistine giant Goliath with just a slingshot. Palin, in her testimony, accused The Times of deliberately fabricating information to sully her reputation.
The Times’ former editorial page editor, James Bennet, testified that while he was responsible for the erroneous information in the editorial, it was an honest mistake and that he meant no harm.
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