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Jury Concludes First Day of Deliberations in Ventura Defamation Trial; No Verdict

Updated: 07/22/2014 10:47 PM
Created: 07/22/2014 5:51 AM KSTP.com
By: Megan Stewart

A federal jury has concluded its first day of deliberations in former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura's defamation lawsuit against the estate of "American Sniper" Chris Kyle. There was no verdict.

Ventura says Kyle's 2012 best-seller libeled him in its description of a bar fight in California in 2006.

In his book, Kyle wrote that he decked a man identified in the book only as "Scruff Face" who allegedly said the Navy SEALs "deserve to lose a few." Kyle later said the man was Ventura.

Ventura testified the incident never happened. Kyle insisted in testimony taped before he was killed in Texas last year that it did.

The case was in the 10-person jury's hands at noon. Because a verdict was not reached by 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, the jury was ordered to return at 9 a.m. Wednesday to continue deliberations.

Taya Kyle, the widow of Chris Kyle, told reporters after the trial she's confident of the outcome.

"The truth is the truth," she said.

Legal experts say Ventura must clear a high legal bar to win.

Attorneys gave their closing arguments Tuesday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul.

John Borger, the lead attorney for Kyle's estate, argued the case was about the First Amendment principles of free speech.

"Its about how the world views Jesse Ventura and how the world will remember Chris Kyle," Borger said.

Borger said also this is a case about ego and denial; Ventura wants jurors to believe "American Sniper" was a success because of the two pages in the story about Ventura.

Because Ventura is a public figure, he has to prove there's clear and convincing evidence that Kyle's description of what happened is false.

"If you believe Kyle is telling the truth, Kyle wins," Borger told the jury. "Even if you're not sure what happened, Kyle wins. If Kyle made an honest mistake in getting his story wrong, Kyle still wins."

Ventura's attorney, David Olsen, delivered his closing argument after Borger.

Olsen argued he proved Kyle didn't punch Ventura, as there were no credible witnesses and no marks on Ventura's face. Olsen told the jury witnesses for the defense told different versions of the night that seemed like a collaboration, with the alleged punch happening in four different locations.

"You're not expected to check your common sense at the door," Olsen told the jurors.

Olsen said in his closing argument he believes Kyle's estate has earned more than $6 million from the book. He suggested jurors award Ventura from $5 million to $15 million to compensate for what he said was the harm to Ventura's reputation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura makes his way back into Warren E. Burger Federal Building during the first day of jury selection in a defamation lawsuit, Tuesday.
Photo: AP/Jim Mone

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