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Murderer Not Defamed by Media Reports of Board of Pardons Hearings
Description Upon release, murderer sued media for accurately reporting harsh things said about him at previous Board of Pardons hearing. Materials at such hearings are absolutely privileged, but the media has the wire service defense, which allows it to rely upon news stories presumed to be true.
Topic Torts
Key Words Defamation, Absolute Privilege, Wire Service Defense
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Cole spent seven years in prison for second-degree murder. Upon his release, he sued various newspapers for printing an Associated Press story that had reported a parole hearing the year before. At the parole hearing, his nieces claimed that when Cole murdered his wife, he ignored her pleas for mercy, so he deserved none. Cole claimed the newspapers defamed him by printing statements that were false, thereby injuring his reputation. The trial court granted the newspapers summary judgment; Cole appealed.
Decision Affirmed. Minnesota recognizes the wire service defense that a newspaper, under ordinary circumstances, does not act negligently by relying on the accuracy of a news items obtained from a reputable wire service. The papers had no reason to suspect the accuracy of the news report in question. Furthermore, the statements made by the nieces to the Board of Pardons are absolutely privileged, as they are published in the course of a judicial proceeding.
Citation Cole v. Star Tribune, 1998 WL 388096 (---N.W.2d---, Ct. App., Minn.)
581 N.W.2d 364 (Ct. App., Minn., 1998)

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