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Kyle praised the jury, noting that all members showed up on time each day. “You have been a most conscientious jury,” he said, adding that they equaled any he has had in his 22 years on the bench.
If the jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict, a new trial would depend upon a decision by Ventura and his attorneys.
A new trial would result in a new jury being empaneled. Witnesses would be asked once again asked to fly in from around the country; presumably some would not be available, because they are deployed overseas or other reasons.
The suit was filed in 2012; many depositions have been taken and numerous pretrial motions filed by attorneys by both sides and ruled on by Judge Kyle, who is no relation to the late defendant.
‘Evidence … disputed’
Monday’s hearing was the first session in open court since the case went to the jury. Since then, the jurors have submitted three questions to the judge — one question each on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. But the contents of those questions were not revealed, other than to the attorneys.
Jane Kirtley a journalism professor at the University of Minnesota and an expert on defamation cases, said, “The evidence is strongly disputed by both sides and [Chris] Kyle is dead, so he can’t be cross-examined. If one person disagrees with any one of the questions [posed by the judge], be it falsity, defamation or actual malice, then the jury is deadlocked.”
Joseph Daly, a professor emeritus at Hamline University Law School, speculated that jurors were still debating what was true or false in Kyle’s book.
“If they had already determined it was false and were only talking about money, they could come to some compromise,” he said, noting that Ventura’s lawyers had asked for up to $15 million, but the jurors could award as little as $1.
If a hung jury is declared, Ventura’s attorneys could seek a new trial, but a mistrial might also encourage both sides to seek a settlement, said Mark Anfinson, a local media attorney. Settlement talks were held this spring, but failed.
The case is drawing interest far beyond the Twin Cities.
The Media Law Resource Center in New York City has been sending out daily updates on the Ventura defamation trial to its 2,000 media lawyers who belong to about 325 law firms, corporations and associations, said Sandra Baron, the organization’s executive director.
She said there is probably considerable interest among the nation’s media attorneys because there are so few defamation trials.
Randy Furst • 612-673-4224 Twitter: @randyfurst
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