The interwebz exploded when Jesse Ventura won $1.8 million in a defamation suit against the estate of Chris Kyle over statements Kyle made in his book American Sniper.
First the legalese part from Legal Insurrection in an article by Amy Miller:
Defamation lawsuits are tricky animals, especially when they’re brought against a public figure. If the matter being sued over is “a matter of public concern” (and this most certainly was, considering the most famous sniper in American history made statements about one of the most famous American governors in history,) we’re looking at charge of “constitutional defamation.” These cases are desperately difficult to win on behalf of a famous plaintiff—-and Ventura’s lawyers won….
The problem with drawing conclusions following media coverage of a jury trial is that reporters tend to leave out the nuances and inconvenient facts that define a case. For example, the media rightly reported that, in order to find in favor of Ventura, the jury needed to prove that Chris Kyle acted with actual malice when he wrote his book; that is to say, that Kyle either knew his statements were false, or acted with reckless disregard as to whether they were false or not. What the media didn’t choose to cover is how difficult it is for an attorney to prove that a defendant acted with actual malice against a public figure.
It take a lot to prove malice in a courtroom, yet Ventura’s attorneys managed to swat eight jurors that malice was present. So, Ventura was most likely correct to say he was defamed by Kyle.
Unfortunately, Ventura has failed to grasp that how his need for vindication was going to be perceived once Kyle was murdered and Ventura continued to press his suit. It’s one thing to go after the man who said bad things about you. It’s another thing entirely to go after his widow and children, even if you are in the right.
In the end, Ventura upheld his name in court, but ended up doing far more damage in the eyes of the public who consumes his products.
Enjoy your Pyrrhic victory, Jesse.