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On appeal, television station avoids defamation case

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  1. Libel and Privacy

    NMU         LOUISIANA         Libel         Jun 26, 2001    

On appeal, television station avoids defamation case

  • By demonstrating to the court that what it broadcast was true, the station validated its report about a murder suspect to an appeals court.

A Shreveport, La., news station truthfully reported police assertions about a killing and thus was not liable for defamation, a Louisiana appellate court ruled on June 22. The Second Circuit Court of Appeal in Shreveport reversed a trial court ruling that KSLA-TV was not entitled to summary judgment.

In February 1998, the station reported that Akili Wyatt was arrested in the murder of LaStarsky Franks. Several news reports stated that Bossier City, La., police charged Wyatt in the shooting and that police believed he fired the fatal shot.

A year later, Wyatt sued the station for defamation, claiming he was never involved in the shooting and the reports that he was a killer were false and defamatory. On the station’s motion for summary judgment, the trial judge ruled that Wyatt adequately alleged the necessary elements of defamation.

However, the appellate court decided that KSLA had submitted uncontroverted evidence that what it had broadcast was true.

The court found it significant that “in none of the broadcasts did KSLA state, explicitly or implicitly, that Wyatt definitely killed Franks. KSLA reported that the police believed Wyatt fired the fatal shot, and that the police accuse, charge, think, and believe Wyatt killed Franks.”

(Wyatt v. Elcom of Louisiana, Inc.; Media Counsel: Robert E. Barkley, Jr., Nicholas D. Doucet) DB

© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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