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Author's widow testifies as Ventura's defamation trial opens


The widow of the best-selling author accused of defaming Jesse Ventura says her late husband omitted the former governor's name from his book to avoid calling him out.

KSTP reports Taya Kyle testified Tuesday, the opening day of a trial in U.S. District Court in St. Paul.

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Taya Kyle oversees the estate of Chris Kyle, author of the book "American Sniper."

As the Star Tribune reports, her testimony capped a busy day at court in which a jury was seated and listened to opening statements from attorneys for each side.

"American Sniper" includes details of a 2006 incident in a California bar in which Kyle describes punching a man he called "Scruff Face," who had been disparaging the Iraq War and the tactics of the Navy SEALS. The author confirmed in subsequent interviews that Scruff Face was a pseudonym for Ventura.

Ventura claims the incident never occurred. His defamation suit argues the anecdote contained in the best-selling book has damaged his reputation and made it harder for him to find work.

After Chris Kyle was killed in a shooting at a Texas firing range last year, a judge allowed the lawsuit to proceed with Taya Kyle serving as the defendant.

The Associated Press says she testified that while her husband was writing the book she heard some concerns that using the former Minnesota governor's name could risk a libel lawsuit, but she did not remember who had raised those concerns.

The Star Tribune says Ventura's attorney told the jury witnesses will testify that the fight and the remarks attributed to Ventura never occurred. An attorney for Kyle promised to produce witnesses who saw various portions of the episode.

Legal scholars have said Ventura faces a tall order in proving his defamation case against Kyle.

The University of Minnesota's Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law, tells CBS 11 of Dallas-Fort Worth that since Chris Kyle is not living it will be almost impossible to prove he knew what was published was false.

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Reuters reports Judge Richard Kyle (who is unrelated to the defendant) told prospective jurors the trial is likely to last three weeks, possibly four.

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