June 1 (UPI) — A judge has rejected Sarah Palin‘s request for a new trial in her libel case against the New York Times, saying she failed to produce “even a speck” of evidence that the newspaper defamed her.
U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff denied Palin’s lawyers’ claims Wednesday that there were errors in several evidentiary rulings during jury selection and deliberations in the trial. Rakoff wrote the burden was on Palin to prove the Times was motivated by actual malice, the bar set by the Supreme Court for a public figure to win a defamation case.
“The striking thing about the trial here was that Palin, for all of her earlier assertions, could not in the end introduce even a speck of such evidence,” Rakoff wrote Wednesday. “Palin’s motion is hereby denied in its entirety.”
Palin, a former Republican vice presidential candidate and governor of Alaska, filed the lawsuit against the New York Times over a 2017 editorial that falsely linked her campaign rhetoric to a 2011 mass shooting in Arizona, which she said damaged her reputation and career. The Times issued a correction to the editorial, calling it an “honest mistake,” the morning after it was published.
Rakoff agreed NYT editors made mistakes as they rushed to meet deadlines, but “a mistake is not enough to win if it was not motivated by actual malice.”
Before the jury completed its deliberations in February, Rakoff announced he planned to dismiss the lawsuit because Palin had failed to prove the Times had acted with malice. The jury rejected the lawsuit the next day.
Palin’s lawyers argued the timing of Rakoff’s announcement should be grounds for a retrial after several jurors admitted learning of the judge’s decision, through push notifications on their cellphones, while they were deliberating. Rakoff said the jurors told the court’s law clerk the notifications “had not affected them in any way or played any role whatever in their deliberations.”
The Times issued a statement responding to Wednesday’s ruling. “We are pleased to see the court’s decision, and remain confident that the judge and jury decided the case fairly and correctly.”
Lawyers for Palin declined to comment.