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Jury finishes first day of deliberations in Ventura defamation suit


The jury has concluded its first day of deliberations in former Gov. Jesse Ventura's defamation lawsuit against the estate of "American Sniper" author and former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle.

The 10-member jury will have to decide if Kyle was not truthful – and that he acted with malice – when he wrote in his 2012 bestselling book that he punched out another man he called "Scruff Face" at a bar. Kyle, who was shot and killed on a Texas gun range, later identified "Scruff Face" as Ventura.

Ventura, a former pro wrestler and member of the Navy's Underwater Demolition Team (now part of the SEALs), who has gone on to become a TV personality, denies the fight ever happened. He sued Kyle’s estate, claiming the book harmed his reputation and caused him lost income.

The jury got the case at noon, after hearing closing arguments from attorneys for both sides, and they ended their day at 4:30 p.m., according to KSTP.

University of Minnesota law professor William McGeveran tweeted about the trial Tuesday:

In closing statements Tuesday, Kyle's lawyer John Borger told the federal jury that Ventura is either deluding himself or lying about the night in the bar. He also rejected Ventura's claims that the book hurt his reputation and earning potential, the Associated Press reports.

Borger also argued Ventura didn't prove Kyle's story was false, saying doing so would require all of the defense's 11 witnesses to be wrong, the Pioneer Press reports.

Ventura's attorney, David B. Olsen, pointed out in closing statements that witnesses who backed Kyle's story gave conflicting testimony about where in the bar the punch happened, the Star Tribune reports. Olsen says that throws their testimony in doubt.

The Pioneer Press notes that the memories of the eyewitnesses are also on trial – the jury will have to asses how credible their differing stories are. Legal experts told the newspaper that peoples' memories can change without them realizing to better fit with the way others are recalling an event.

University of Minnesota Law School associate professor Francis Shen (who wrote a book about memories and the legal system) told the Pioneer Press, in the legal world "we have a lot more confidence in eyewitness testimony than we ought to have."

Because of this, it can be difficult for jurors to determine which story to believe. Diane Wiley, a founder of NJP Litigation Consulting Midwest in Minneapolis, told the Pioneer Press that jurors will have to "look at the people who testified" and ask a series of questions – what state of mind was the witness in, where were they in the bar, does the person have an agenda and ultimately, is that person lying?

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