Court of Appeals rules against N&O in libel lawsuit | News
News
INDY Week's news blog

Archives | RSS

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Court of Appeals rules against N&O in libel lawsuit

Posted by on Wed, May 20, 2015 at 11:30 AM

A libel lawsuit against The News & Observer, brought by a former State Bureau of Investigation ballistics expert who claimed she was wrongfully defamed, will move toward a trial.

The N.C. Court of Appeals had considered dismissing the suit after an oral argument last November. But in an opinion issued yesterday, the three-member panel of judges determined there was enough evidence for a jury to consider whether the plaintiff, Beth Desmond, was libeled in two articles published in 2010. One of those articles, "SBI relies on bullet analysis that critics deride as unreliable," was part of an investigative series that revealed SBI shortcomings and won a major award.

That article was critical of Desmond, questioning her honesty and competency.  In 2011  Desmond sued the N&O; its parent company, McClatchy Newspapers, and lead writer Mandy Locke. Desmond claimed that Locke acted with malice and reckless disregard for the truth. She sought a retraction, apology and monetary relief.

After a Wake County judge declined to dismiss the lawsuit, the N&O appealed the judge's decision to the Court of Appeals.

Locke's article centered on a 2006 criminal case in Pitt County. The previous year a 10-year-old boy was fatally struck by a bullet during a street fight. The man charged with the murder claimed he shot a bullet in the air in response to a nearby gunman who shot first. Two usable bullet fragments were recovered from the scene. Desmond analyzed the bullets' impressions, which are made as the projectiles travel through the barrel. During the trial she testified that the bullets came from the same make and model gun. 

In her lawsuit, Desmond cited 22 instances in Locke's article she deemed libelous, including "Independent firearms experts who have studied the photographs questioned whether Desmond knows anything about the discipline," and "Worse, some suspect she falsified evidence to offer prosecutors the answers they wanted.

In its opinion, the Court of Appeals cited several contested sentences that were not libelous. But the judges also cited six passages from the articles that a jury might possibly believe were written with actual malice. 
Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in News



Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

I'm honestly surprised. I had expected that he would only accept if the vote flipped.

by AgentDani on Breaking: Pat McCrory Concedes Governor's Race (News)

Thank you Councilwoman Jillian Johnson for your powerful courage to speak out the truth for us all who do not …

by Mariam Whitelle on Durham Councilwoman: Why Are Cops Involved in Frank Clark Shooting Still on Force? (News)

Energy Transfer Partners said this changes nothing and they're going to drill anyway -- http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2016/12/live…

That …

by Jon Howell on The Morning Roundup: Profiles in Courage (News)

Impeach Judge Michael Denning. Does anyone find it very odd that Judge Michael Denning has not been impeached as a …

by Justice in the Courts on Wake County Judge Michael Denning: 'China Wouldn't Be So Bad If It Weren't for All the Chinese' (News)

Of course there was no evidence. We're in a post-fact world, doncha know? And one person saying there could be …

by canesfan on State Board of Elections Throws McCrory a Lifejacket (News)

Comments

I'm honestly surprised. I had expected that he would only accept if the vote flipped.

by AgentDani on Breaking: Pat McCrory Concedes Governor's Race (News)

Thank you Councilwoman Jillian Johnson for your powerful courage to speak out the truth for us all who do not …

by Mariam Whitelle on Durham Councilwoman: Why Are Cops Involved in Frank Clark Shooting Still on Force? (News)

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation