George Zimmerman’s civil lawyer is vowing to appeal the ruling that Judge Debra Nelson made that tossed the defamation lawsuit against NBC.  Judge Nelson wrote that Zimmerman “shall take nothing” even though NBC in multiple broadcasts edited a 911 police tape that inaccurately made Zimmerman appear racist during his encounter with Trayvon Martin in 2012.

“We obviously disagree with the judge,” said James Beasley, Zimmerman’s civil lawyer, “We understand she has her position and we respect it, but we obviously disagree.”

Judge Nelson also presided over Zimmerman’s 2013 second-degree murder trial, in which he was acquitted.

Judge Nelson in her ruling declared that for the purposes of libel, Zimmerman was a public figure.  In so ruling, Nelson agreed with NBC’s motion to dismiss, which argued that Zimmerman’s public profile predated the encounter with Martin.  He became a public figure, according to them, when he opposed the Sanford Police Department when they were slow to investigate the relative of a law enforcement official who allegedly had beaten a black man.  He also lobbied for a neighborhood watch group.  Nelson wrote in her ruling that his interviews along with the above mentioned events made him a public figure because he “voluntarily injected his views into the public controversy surrounding race relations and public safety…”

Public figures have almost insurmountable odds when it comes to winning libel and defamation suits.  To prevail, a public figure must prove that a news organization proceeded with “actual malice” that is, the reporters disseminated false information knowingly or recklessly.  Judge Nelson held that according to the public figure rules, there is no evidence that NBC “knew that the information [it] published was false…or recklessly disregarded the truth…”

Zimmerman would like to challenge that public figure ruling.

“The nature and extent of his thrusting himself into this as opposed to NBC thrusting him…is a fundamental question,” Beasley said.

Courts and lawyers have constantly argued over who is and who isn’t a public figure and  whether it matters if you involuntarily become a public figure.  The interesting part of Judge Nelson’s ruling is that she basically says that Zimmerman was the target of so much negative publicity that NBC’s editing didn’t harm him.

“The undisputed evidence shows negative publicity was directed at Zimmerman by the Martin family’s lawyer, by civil rights activists, and by a litany of news media entities well before the non-emergency call was released to the public and before NBC broadcast any of the news reports at issue.”

Beasley isn’t worried.  He noted that NBC found the error great enough to fire several employees.

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Comments
  1. dreamer says:

    I don’t believe Beasley has a leg to stand on. NBC may have errored, but IMO, It does not negate a payout for the damages Zimmerman states it caused him. Zimmerman had already gone into hiding, quit his job, was already receiving death threats. The whole world does not watch NBC, and I hardly believe that those who watched it suddenly had a “Come To Jesus Moment, and decided he is a racist. He has only himself to blame for that, with help from his family and others. The 911 call had already been released, his father had already come out to the media stating George was not a racist.

    Those who believe that racial profiling did occur, based their opinion not only on the 911 call, the unedited version, where I have no question the he said fn coons. We then have a cousin, co-worker, and a few residents who state he has a problem with blacks. His father states George has black in his roots, therefore he is not a racist, and then write a book proclaiming blacks as racist. His facebook clearly shows he has a problem with Mexicans.

    The question is why did he find Trayvon suspicious? He states that there has been some break-ins and there is this real suspicious guy walking in the rain looking about. The person responsible for the break-ins had already been arrested the week before. He looks like he’s up to no good, he’s un drugs or something. When interviewed by the detective he states it’s raining and he doesn’t look like he’s the athletic type out training. Is he breaking the law because its 7pm and he’s walking in the rain talking on the phone? Casing out houses? Can’t imagine he can see much walking down the street, it’s raining, and dark out. He’s wearing kaki pants, white tennis shoes, and had his hoodie up cause it’s raining. He’s got his hand in his waistband, and without being prompted, he states he’s black. These Aholes always get away. No they don’t, in fact the one responsible was already arrested. So why is he suspicious?

    We know George was lying, he was not on his way to target to do his weakly shopping, he did not cook dinner for his wife that night, she had left him after a fight the night before. What was George doing out in the rain that night? What’s his deal?

    People seem to be under the assumption that the DOJ is not going to charge George. They may not, but there is still an active investigation, and Mr Taffee states he will be interviewed on July 16th by the DOJ.

    Like

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