The Printing Press to the Internet
4. Defamation: Common Law Elements
C H A P T E R F O U R Defamation Common Law Elements CONTROVERSY: Most likely, the name Richard Jewell means nothing to those under 25, and little to those who are older. In July 1996, however, Jewell became internation- ally famous overnight. And just as quickly, it seems, internationally infamous. That summer, Jewell, while working as a security guard at Centennial Olympic Park, the site for the 1996 Summer Olympics, found a pipe bomb. He alerted the police, the site was evacuated, and hundreds of lives were saved, though two died in the explosion. He was hailed as a hero. That changed three days later when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the FBI was investigating Jewell as the lead suspect in the bombing. Then, about three months later, authorities cleared Jewell as a suspect. In 2005, Eric Robert Rudolph confessed to the bombing. In January 1997, Jewell sued the newspa- per and other news outlets for libel. He won out-of-court settlements from a number of outlets that reported the same accusations originally reported by the Atlanta Journal. But the newspaper refused to settle. In January 2012, the Georgia Supreme Court appears to have put an end to Jewell’s lawsuit when it upheld a lower court ruling absolving the newspaper of culpability. The Atlanta Journal persuaded the Georgia courts that its reporting was substantially true because it relied on a credible source and included in the same story comments from sources who dismissed or cast doubts about the...
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