Skip to content

Dismissal of Branch Davidian defamation case upheld

Post categories

  1. Libel and Privacy
A Texas appellate court ruled last week that the defamation suit filed by a cameraman against a college newspaper he…

A Texas appellate court ruled last week that the defamation suit filed by a cameraman against a college newspaper he thought wrongfully suggested that he had tipped off David Koresh’s Branch Davidian compound about an impending federal raid in 1993 was rightfully dismissed by the trial court, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported.

James Edwin Peeler’s suit against Baylor University arose from two articles in The Baylor Lariat, the school’s student newspaper, which were published on the 10th annivesary of the failed raid on the Branch Davidian compound. The articles referenced a conversation Peeler had on the day of the raid with a postal worker who turned out to be the brother-in-law of compound-leader Koresh.

Peeler claimed the articles in The Lariat suggested that he had warned the Branch Davidians about the raid because they quoted a CNN article without including an attached disclaimer that Peeler was not aware of the mail carrier’s relationship with Koresh and that they "unfairly painted Peeler as an incautious and irresponsible media person," the Waco Tribune-Herald reported.

Baylor University moved to have the case dismissed because it claimed the essential elements of a defamation claim, such as falsity and damages, were missing. The school also used the wire service defense, which protects outlets who republish information from reputable news sources against defamation claims.

Waco’s Tenth Court of Appeals denied Peeler’s appeal, which included a potential conflict of interest of an attorney involved in the case, and stated that Peeler did not disprove each of the claims on which the original summary judgment was based, which is required in such a case.