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Article Asserting That Specified Person Was Murderer of Robert Kennedy Was Libel
Description Tabloid Globe published front-page article with photo identifying purported assassin of Robert Kennedy. Jury award of compensatory and punitive damages upheld as person identified as killer was private person who did not have to show actual malice, although that did occur.
Topic Torts
Key Words Libel, Malice, Privilege
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Roundtable published a book by Robert Morrow that asserted that the Iranian secret police and the Mafia killed Senator Robert Kennedy, not convicted murdered Sirhan Sirhan. Khawar, the alleged murderer, was a photojournalist who was at the hotel when Kennedy was killed. Globe published its weekly tabloid, Globe, with front-page stories and a photo of Khawar identified as the murderer. After publication of the book and Globe, Khawar and his father were subject to death threats, vandalism, and other acts. When Khawar sued, Roundtable settled and published a retraction; Morrow defaulted... A jury awarded Khawar over $1 million in damages against Globe, including punitive damages. Globe appealed.
Decision Affirmed. Khawar was a private figure who was not required to establish malice by the Globe in its publication of the article. The Globe does not have neutral reportage privilege for reports about private figures. The article was published with actual malice, as the Globe acted negligently in publishing the article, so punitive damages could be imposed.
Citation Khawar v. Globe International, Inc., 79 Cal.Rptr.2d 178 (Sup. Ct., Calif., 1998)

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