I posted a video in another thread yesterday in which two YouTube lawyers critique the outcome of the Alex Jones trial in Connecticut. I have since reviewed the video again in order to jot up some notes describing problems with the trial. The essence of the lawyers’ critique seems to me (inexpertly) to revolve around the application of anti-SLAPP law.
SLAPP stands for strategic lawsuits against public participation:
SLAPPs have become an all-too-common tool for intimidating and silencing criticism through expensive, baseless legal proceedings.
Anti-SLAPP laws are intended to prevent people from using courts, and potential threats of a lawsuit, to intimidate people who are exercising their First Amendment rights. In terms of reporting, news organizations and individual journalists can use anti-SLAPP statutes to protect themselves from the financial threat of a groundless defamation case brought by a subject of an enterprise or investigative story.
Under most anti-SLAPP statutes, the person sued makes a motion to strike the case because it involves speech on a matter of public concern. The plaintiff then has the burden of showing a probability that they will prevail in the suit — meaning they must show that they have evidence that could result in a favorable verdict. If the plaintiff cannot meet this burden and the suit is dismissed through anti-SLAPP proceedings, many statutes allow defendants to collect attorney’s fees from the plaintiff.
With SLAPP in mind, here are some of the notes I jotted up to capture criticisms the video lawyers make:
Due process irregularities:
Applicable “anti-SLAPP” laws were not enforced by the judge. In particular, the defendant was not allowed to offer a defense based on the 1st Amendment.
The defendant twice moved to “remove jurisdiction” from Connecticut and have the case tried in Federal court but the Federal court declined both times for unusual and spurious reasons.
The defendant was required to complete discovery before being allowed to submit a motion to dismiss.
In discovery the defendant had to produce information he did not create, did not possess, and did not act upon. Plus, the order to produce was excessively broad and egregious because it required the defendant to produce immaterial information.
Prosecution did not meet the legal standards for defamation. For example:
- To prove defamation, the prosecution must show that a specific factual statement was made about a specific, identified person. This never occurred in the Connecticut trial (or in Alex Jones’ real life).
- Commercial practices have never before been used as evidence to support a defamation claim This is because defamation cannot derive from a commercial practice; it can only derive from speech.
From the YouTube video transcript (at 40:08):
The core of the [prosecution] theory was that Alex Jones was the originator the instigator and basically sole source of people who doubted whether Sandy Hook occurred, number one; number two that Alex Jones had set people up to harass people’s families homes; number three that he became famous and made all of his money solely based on Sandy Hook.
The problem is they knew — the plaintiff’s lawyers knew — that was a lie.
[It was a lie because there were millions of other originators of doubt about Sandy Hook on the Internet; there was no evidence that Jones incited harassment of anyone; Jones made money in many ways that had nothing to do with Sandy Hook.]