Judge Uses Talk Show Evidence In Libel Case


Superior Judge Ernest Murphy of Dover, Ma., was the subject of a 2002 Boston Herald story under the headline “Murphy’s law: Lenient judge frees dangerous criminals.” The Herald said Murphy “heartlessly demeaned victims” and had dismissed the trauma of a 14-year-old rape victim by saying, “Tell her to get over it.” Murphy denies the statement.

The judge has sued the Herald and four of its writers for a “malicious and relentless campaign of libel” The Washington Post says that the trial, scheduled for trial next month, is significant because it uses a rambunctious exchange on a televised talk show to try to prove the malicious intent of a newspaper reporter. The case “reflects the perils of this new media culture” in which reporters go on the air to promote their stories, said Tom Rosenstiel of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. Kurt Wimmer of the Washington, D.C. law firm Covington & Burling in Washington, pointed out that a television appearance by a reporter after a story appears in print extends the time allowed to show a reporter’s state of mind and “raises another category of issues to bring against a newspaper or television station.” He added: “The era of the reporter-celebrity may be coming to an end.”

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A62088-2004Dec13.html

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