Jurors selected in Ventura's defamation lawsuit


Former Gov. Jesse Ventura's defamation lawsuit against the late author of "American Sniper: An Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History" began Tuesday in St. Paul.

Six men and four women were picked from a pool of 26 potential jurors Tuesday morning by a U.S. District Court judge, the Star Tribune reports. The jurors include a mortgage specialist, a Vietnam War veteran, a psychology student and a soybean farmer, the newspaper says.

Opening statements in the trial are expected to begin around 12:45 p.m.

Ventura's lawsuit says Chris Kyle, who is regarded as the deadliest sniper in U.S. history, defamed the former governor in his bestselling book by making up a story about a 2006 barroom fight in California.

Kyle tells the story of punching a man he called "Scruff Face," whom he later confirmed was Ventura. Kyle wrote that "Scruff Face" was criticizing President George W. Bush, the Iraq War, and Navy SEAL tactics before Kyle dropped him to the floor with a punch.

Five fellow Navy SEALs and the mothers of two of their SEAL comrades back Kyle’s story, while Ventura argues the incident is a fabrication.

Ventura says his reputation is damaged and he's had trouble finding work. Ventura insists the lawsuit isn't about money, but about clearing his name. Court documents show the book has earned royalties of more than $3 million and a judge has already ruled that proceeds from an upcoming movie could be subject to damages also, FOX 9 reports.

Kyle was fatally shot in February 2013 in an incident at a Texas gun range. His widow, Taya Kyle, who oversees his estate, will stand as the defendant in the trial.

The trial

Ventura's attorney will have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that actual malice was at play when Kyle wrote about "Scruff Face."

Legal analysts say this can be hard to prove, and this case will be one of the most important First Amendment cases in Minnesota in recent history.

“This case for Minnesota defamation law is extremely important. We haven't seen a case like this in Minnesota, maybe ever," First Amendment attorney Steven Aggergaard told FOX 9.

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Aggergaard says the case is unusual because it involves a public figure, and different rules apply to them.

"Public figures need to prove defamation, they need to prove falsity with reckless disregard for the truth, or that the person who wrote about Mr. Ventura just plain made it up," Aggergaard tells the station.

Raleigh Levine, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law, tells the Associated Press it’s harder to prove malice than falsity.

“It has to do with what you know about the truth — that you actually knew that what you were saying was false or that you recklessly disregarded the truth,” Levine tells the AP.

The Star Tribune says the trial could last up to three weeks and include testimony from Taya Kyle and Ventura.

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