Because it takes forever for anything to go to trial, especially in Federal Court, you may have forgotten that Sarah Palin is suing the New York Times for libel from a story published in 2017. In a nutshell, the Times published a story that stated that Palin’s rhetoric and public statements contributed to the terrible shooting of former US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. She was one of the 14 people injured, and six others were killed.
The former vice-presidential candidate and the Old Gray Lady did not settle, and the case went to trial. It is unusual for libel cases to go to trial, especially public figures. A lengthy line of Supreme Court precedent says that simply proving that something is false is not enough for the person alleging libel if the person is a public figure. Actual malice must be proven.
As a legal standard, actual malice is extremely difficult to prove because it revolves around someone’s mindset. Palin will have to prove the New York Times purposefully printed the story to harm her reputation. Anyone familiar with how the mainstream media is a propaganda arm of the democratic party knows that it is not a stretch that the NYT published a hit piece to harm Palin’s reputation. The problem is proving it in court. Circumstantial evidence alone is sufficient in all sorts of cases for purposes of proof, but it is usually not enough to show what someone was thinking.
Reporters are experts at cloaking their disdain for people in the truth and usually are not dumb enough to put “I’m writing a hit piece on Sarah Palin to hurt her on purpose.” It creates a situation where the bar has become so high that a successful libel case has not been prosecuted against the New York Times for over 50 years.
The trial began earlier this month and proceeded relatively smoothly until the judge in charge of the case shockingly dismissed the case while the jury was still deliberating. Usually, a judge will let the jury come back with a verdict or dismiss a case before deliberations. Observers were confused, but Alan Dershowitz told Newsmax he thinks the judge in the case wanted to put himself in a position to write an opinion but made a big mistake. In doing so, the judge may have helped Palin’s case on appeal. Furthermore, the case is perfectly set up for the Supreme Court to revisit the malice standard if it wants to.
Not settling the case, the New York Times may have made things worse for all publishers if the Supreme Court decided to weigh in. Palin’s libel case is far from over and may have ramifications beyond immediate participants.