Jesse Ventura verdict watch: What's taking so long? - myfoxcarolinas.com

Jesse Ventura verdict watch: What's taking so long?

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Normally, our jobs are nowhere near this quiet.

We sit on the 7th floor of the United States Courthouse in St. Paul, Minn., waiting word from a jury of 10 people who are in a room just down a secured hallway. The reporters assembled here represent all 4 local TV stations, both local major newspapers, plus writers for the Associated Press and Reuters. We wait here because the judge in this case said once the jury says they have a verdict, he’s only going to wait 10 minutes until it’s announced in court.

There are a couple other new people here today, but I’m not entirely sure who they are. I believe at least one of them is simply a curious member of the public wanting to witness something interesting. So far, since the jury began deliberating around 1 p.m. Tuesday, nothing particularly interesting has happened.

Through Thursday, the jury had deliberated roughly 19 hours by our count. That’s far longer than anyone expected and the conventional wisdom is it bodes well for Ventura’s case. The former governor’s lawsuit makes 3 claims: first, that former SEAL Chris Kyle defamed him both in his book “American Sniper” and in TV and radio appearances promoting it; second, that he invaded his privacy by misappropriating his name and likeness; and third, Kyle was “unjustly enriched” (legal term) by both of the first two claims.

The jury only has to consider the second and third claims (misappropriation and unjust enrichment) if they answer yes to the first, that Ventura was in fact defamed. If they say he was not defamed, they are done -- don’t have to deliberate the other two, and we all go home.

So what’s taking so long?

We have no idea, only theories. And we speculate because we have plenty of time on our hands sitting here on the 7th floor huddled in groups around the electrical outlets that keep our laptops and phones with a healthy charge.

I talked to David Schultz on the phone. He’s the Hamline professor we often interview for political and legal stories. His gut feeling is the jury is deadlocked, but cautioned that we might as well be two guys withe a Ouija board. We have no idea.

The first possibility is that the jury is simply at a stalemate on any of these issues, entirely possible because it’s so complicated. With each of the three claims, the jury has to decide on financial damages, meaning there are really six things total they have to debate…if they get past defamation.

And, that first claim, defamation, has three separate parts to consider just in itself.

For defamation, the jury has to find that Kyle harmed Ventura’s reputation with the story. I believe that has been shown. They also need to decide that the story was “not substantially accurate.” Chris Kyle himself, in video deposition a few months before his murder last year, admitted that details in the printed story were probably not true. For example, he didn’t see Ventura take a swing first. He also conceded that tables did not fly, since he says they were actually nowhere near any tables. He also admitted he didn’t witnesses Ventura hit his head on the ground. I believe that really does call into question the credibility of the entire story.

And then there’s the quote: “You deserve to lose a few.”

That is what Ventura said hurt his reputation, the accusation he said that military members deserve to die. It is really the entire reason we are here. And here’s the problem with that, if I were on that jury. Only one person of the defense’s 11 witnesses said they heard it too. And that witness is a fellow SEAL who admitted to drinking heavily, who admitted he was disgusted that Ventura had pushed this lawsuit after Chris Kyle’s murder and said he walked up just as Ventura said those words and Kyle slugged him. Ventura’s lawyer suggested that was awfully convenient timing.

The third part of defamation is that Kyle had to know or believe the story was not true. That part is tough and is one spot where you could get a jury stuck. There’s not much evidence either way that can convince you what Chris Kyle believed or not. You’d have to go on whether you thought it was very likely a complete fabrication.

The other thing that could take so long is that the jurors, if they do decide Ventura was defamed, then must decide how much money Ventura should get in damages. That could easily be a tough debate, too. Ventura said in his testimony that he believes the book became a bestseller entirely because of the two pages written about him. I think that’s ridiculous. Ventura’s story may have helped get it some attention, but I don’t think anyone bought a several hundred page autobiography to read a two page story they’d already heard about in the same sparse detail.

Ventura’s lawyer, in his closing argument to the jury, said the book may have earned as much as $15 million dollars. He told the jury that damages were up to them to decide, but told them maybe they figured it was worth the entire $15 million, or maybe it was worth $10 million or perhaps $5 million. They get to figure it out. If they’ve gotten to that point, it’s certainly a healthy debate.

For now, we wait to find out what they decide.

It could come at any second. It could come next week. We just don’t know. We sit. We charge electronics. We wait to see if the jury is brought lunch. Then we try to guess what that is, too.

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