Ventura verdict shocks legal experts

Illustration by Ken Avidor

I doubt the reaction would be as interesting had he lost. In The New York Times, Monica Davey writes, “In Mr. Ventura’s latest turn in the spotlight, some people questioned whether he could prevail in a claim that he had been defamed in a best-selling book, given the relatively high legal standard in such cases for public figures — and given Mr. Ventura’s lifetime of vivid, blunt and provocative pronouncements. … Lawyers began considering the possibility of a less-than-unanimous verdict while facing the likelihood of a deadlock that could have forced a new trial. ‘That was a strategic call, which seemed appropriate at the time,’ John Borger, a lawyer for Mr. [Chris] Kyle’s estate, said after the verdict was announced.”

From the Strib duo of James Walsh and Randy Furst“‘I think it’s a strategic error,’ said David Schultz, a professor of law and political science at Hamline University in St. Paul. ‘I’m surprised that the defense agreed to it.’ Schultz said the defense had nothing to lose with a hung jury. If the jury couldn’t reach a verdict, Ventura would have had to pay to retry the case. That could have cost him much more than $100,000 in additional costs.

Steve Karnowski at the AP writes, “At least some of that [judgment] money will be covered by ‘American Sniper’ publisher HarperCollins’ insurance policy. Borger said the $1.3 million for unjust enrichment will have to come from the book profits, but Olsen believes the policy will cover all the damages. Borger said he expects both sides will file papers on that and other issues soon. Olsen also said Ventura’s side will ask HarperCollins to remove the disputed section from the book.”

In The Washington Post, Dan Lamothe notes, “A general search of the terms ‘Chris Kyle’ and ‘Jesse Ventura’ on Twitter shows that reaction is overwhelmingly in Kyle’s family’s favor.”

In the PiPress, Marino Eccher says, “William McGeveran, a University of Minnesota law professor who has closely followed the case, said the decision to accept a split verdict was a reasonable move for both sides. It won’t affect their ability to appeal the case, he said, and gave each a better chance of winning outright. McGeveran said he plans to teach the case — full of legal twists and turns — as a model for his fall course on civil law. In light of the high hurdles facing public figures like Ventura in defamation cases, he said, the verdict was ‘shocking.’

The Archbishop will speak. Tony Kennedy’s Strib story says, “A Minneapolis law firm hired by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct with adults by Archbishop John Nienstedt has completed its work and submitted a report to church officials. Attorney Matthew Forsgren of the firm Greene Espel declined to discuss the findings and referred questions to the archdiocese. The Roman Catholic archbishop plans to talk with some members of the news media on Wednesday.”

This sounds familiar somehow. Tim Pugmire of MPR files a piece on GOP gubernatorial candidate telling audiences what he hopes they want to hear. “A businessman and first-time political candidate, [Scott] Honour wants to approach state government with the same strategy he used in the private sector to turn around failing companies. He believes there are too many state workers, and wants to cut the state budget by 10 percent, in part by laying off employees. ‘The five million citizens of this state are being harmed by the fact that the state has too many employees, and the state employees in aggregate are overcompensated,’ Honour said. ‘It’s in administrative expense in particular. Having someone sitting in some function that’s moving paper around is not helping this state.’” The state employee vote might be a tough one, though.

Clearly, anti-union: Stribber Beena Raghavendran reports, “Nine home health care workers have filed a lawsuit to block a vote starting Friday that could organize the state’s home care workers under the Service Employees International Union. The workers, backed by the National Right to Work Foundation, filed the suit Monday against the state of Minnesota and the SEIU.”

Well, he’s got to do something during their long breaks from the gruelling work of legislation. Allison Sherry of the Strib  tells us, “GOP House Speaker John Boehner is throwing himself a party in Minneapolis during the August Congressional recess. Helping him bring in cash are Republican Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen — both considered safe in their re-elects this fall. No word on why Boehner isnt in Minnesota to help bring money in for Stewart Mills or Torrey Westrom.”

The incident in which Minneapolis activist Al Flowers was roughed up will get an independent investigation. The Stribs Samantha Schmidt and Matt McKinney say, “[Mayor] Hodges’ call for an outside investigation came hours after leaders of the local chapters of the NAACP and the Urban League convened in north Minneapolis to demand an outside review.”

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Steve Miles on 07/30/2014 - 08:15 am.

    Press coverage of trial

    The verdict was such a surprise that one has to wonder about the press coverage. The coverage I read made it sound like a slam dunk against Ventura. Clearly, the press failed to capture and convey what was happening in the courtroom. Why?
    Had they decided that Ventura was a buffoon whose 5 minutes of fame were up?
    Did the press only pop in and out of the trial for a few minutes and form snap judgments?
    Were the reporters utterly inexperienced in understanding or covering trials?
    Enquiring minds want to know.

    • Submitted by Tim Walker on 07/30/2014 - 09:40 am.

      It’s as simple as this …

      Juries do what juries want to do … and predicting what a jury is going to do is a fool’s game.

      That what the law professors tell you day in and day out of law school, and why settling cases without going to a jury is so popular with all lawyers, whether defending or prosecuting.

  2. Submitted by Raj Maddali on 07/30/2014 - 08:55 am.

    Not a surprise at all

    All those emails between the publisher and Chris Kyle. It was quite obvious that Kyle was trying to cash in.

    Its just that the effete intellectuals can’t stand Ventura.

  3. Submitted by James Hamilton on 07/30/2014 - 10:07 am.

    Hardly a shocking verdict.

    The claimed shock over this verdict is harder to understand than the verdict. Kyle, claiming to have been a participant in the events he described, could be presumed to have known whether what he claimed to have witnessed/done was true or false. If the jury didn’t believe Kyle and the defense witnesses, the game was over.

    The damages awarded for defamation are much more interesting. $500,000 for a man of Ventura’s claimed stature is peanuts. Obviously, the jury either didn’t believe his reputation could have been damaged much by Kule’s claims or that it didn’t have too far to sink in the first place.

    I’m surprised to read the Mr. Borger is involved in questions of which damages the insurer will pay and which it won’t. I’d assumed all along that his fees were being covered by insurance, which typically means that the defense attorney stays well clear of coverage disputes.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 07/30/2014 - 12:36 pm.

      The jury must have felt that the dropoff in his income,…

      …which sounded pretty drastic from what I read of the trial coverage, was not due to being defamed, but rather a result of his career itself. Sometimes it can be pretty hard to discriminate between these two. He did rely on sensationalism of one kind or another to entertain us, and the half-life of a sensationalist career can be pretty short and subject to a sudden decline.

      I’m happy for Jesse nonetheless. It’s also fun to watch all the genius prognosticators eat some crow as they now profess their “shock” at how wrong they were.

      Do you think it will cause them to hesitate to prognosticate next time ? I doubt it much.

  4. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 07/30/2014 - 12:02 pm.


    Maybe the internal polling is saying Mills and Westrom don’t have a reasonable chance. Seems a bit early for triage, but I don’t see GOP internal polls.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/30/2014 - 12:24 pm.

    Didn’t actually surprise me

    I thought Kyle was in trouble from the beginning. A bar or patio full of people, he’s having an argument with Jesse Ventura, and NOT ONE person actually saw him throw the punch. 15 witnesses, non of whom saw the punch, many of whom were told about it the next day. And I think if it was such a clear cut case, Kyle wouldn’t have obscured Ventura’s identity in the first place, if he could prove the accusation, why hedge his bet in the book?

    I’m not saying it happened or not, I’m just saying it looked to me like Kyle should have had a slam dunk and clearly did not. I also think Kyle’s witnesses lost their credibility for a variety of reasons, Ventura’s lawyers did a good job of knocking their credibility down.

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