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Court upholds dismissal of libel claims in Hawaii case

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  1. Libel and Privacy
A state appellate court in Hawaii has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by a suspected serial killer against…

A state appellate court in Hawaii has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by a suspected serial killer against two publications.

Waldorf Roy Wilson sued Honolulu Magazine and The Garden Island newspaper for libel, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress after the two publications reported on a police investigation into the rapes of three women, two of whom were also killed. Police investigating the attacks questioned Wilson, who had already served time for rape and kidnapping and was out on parole.

Wilson was never arrested or charged in that case, but the magazine and the newspaper did report that he was questioned. Wilson filed suit, alleging that he was defamed in that the publications accused him of being the killer.

The lower court granted summary judgment for the defendants on all claims, and the appellate court upheld that decision.

Regarding the libel claims, the court ruled that none of the articles factually said  Wilson was the killer; they merely reported that he was a suspect. The court further held that Wilson did not meet the burden of proving the articles were false.

The court upheld the dismissal of the invasion of privacy claims as well, holding: “The identity of individuals who are questioned by the police regarding unsolved murders or who are suspects in the police investigation of such crimes is a matter of legitimate concern to the public.” Thus, the court found, reporting about that investigation did not violate Wilson’s privacy.

The intentional infliction of emotional distress claims were also properly dismissed, the court ruled, because Wilson hadn’t alleged any elements of that claim.

The law firms of Cades, Schutte and Holme, Roberts & Owen represented the media defendants.