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Kansas Supreme Court overturns libel award against broadcaster

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  1. Libel and Privacy
The Kansas Supreme Court last week overturned a $250,000 libel award levied against a Wichita broadcaster and its news director…

The Kansas Supreme Court last week overturned a $250,000 libel award levied against a Wichita broadcaster and its news director after the station erroneously reported that a man was a suspect in what is known as the BTK murders, The Associated Press reported.

Television station KSN received an anonymous tip in 2004 that Roger Valadez had been arrested in connection with the "Bind, Torture, Kill" murders.  In truth, he was never a suspect.  He sued the station and news director Todd Spessard, who no longer works for KSN, alleging extreme and outrageous emotional distress.

The jury initially awarded Valadez more than $1 million but that award was later lowered by the court to $250,000 due to the death of Valadez and the fact that the story did not cause him economic loss. In overturning the remaining award on April 30th, the court said Valadez failed to prove he suffered "extreme emotional duress" beyond what a news report based on purely factual information — that an anonymous tipster provided his name, that his home was searched by police — would likely have caused.