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Desmond v. News & Observer (North Carolina Supreme Court Merits)

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  1. Libel and Privacy

The Reporters Committee and 30 media organizations filed an amicus brief in support of the News & Observer and reporter Mandy Locke’s appeal of a $6 million libel jury verdict, which is before the North Carolina Supreme Court. A forensic firearms examiner for the State Bureau of Investigation brought suit for defamation against the News & Observer and Locke after the News & Observer published a series of articles examining Desmond and the SBI’s work.  The amicus brief highlights important reporting about mistakes or misconduct by state forensic scientists and argues that journalists must be able to report on allegations of mistakes or misconduct by public officials without fear of unwarranted defamation liability. In addition, the amicus brief argues that the Court should reverse because the Court of Appeals failed to conduct an independent review of the record and erred by not requiring Desmond to prove actual malice by clear and convincing evidence and by not finding as a matter of law that the News & Observer’s interpretation of source information was a rational interpretation of what sources had said.