After three hours of deliberation, a Cook County jury found in favor of the Chicago Tribune in a libel case brought by former DuPage County prosecutor Thomas Knight, the paper reported. The announcement of the verdict sparked an outpouring of relief in the courtroom from Tribune editors and lawyers, who had tears in their eyes as they hugged each other. One of the defendants, reporter Maurice Possley, mouthed a “thank you” as he looked at the jury of five men and seven women.
In a bitterly fought three-week trial, Knight attacked the paper’s investigative reporting of criminal justice, its hallmark in recent years. Knight and other prosecutors across the country were the subject of a series, published in 1999, co-authored by Possley and Ken Armstrong, now a reporter for the Seattle Times. Knight claimed libel for a defamatory passage. A soft-spoken Possley, a journalist since 1972 and one of the reporters involved in the criminal-justice stories, tried hard to contain his emotions. “It was hard for me, being in a different part of the courtroom than I have been in for most of my life,” he said. “It’s my reputation [at stake]; it’s the Tribune’s reputation.”