Skip to main content

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.

This embed is invalid

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.

Next Up

unsplash football helmet ground

Judge upholds star QBs suspension for state championship game

Sam Backer, of Chatfield Senior High, won't be allowed to play in Friday's title game.

Screen Shot 2021-11-25 at 7.53.37 AM

Another 5,000 lbs. of goldfish removed from Carver County lakes

It all likely stemmed from people dumping their pets into local waters a few years ago.

Rosaleia Shelton

Appeal to find 19-year-old missing from Bloomington

The teen left her home on Monday afternoon.

hospital, emergency room

Deaths of twin fetuses after woman was shot ruled a double homicide

The woman was shot in the abdomen in mid-September.

Payton Willis / Gopher Basketball

Gophers improve to 5-0 with win over Jacksonville

The Gophers are establishing momentum early in the season.

Anthony Edwards

Ant's massive slam leads Timberwolves to fifth straight win

The dunk didn't count, but provided the highlight of the night.

Cam Talbot / Minnesota Wild

WIld arrive late, Cam Talbot stays on point to beat Devils

Despite a 30-minute delay, the Wild picked up a 3-2 victory.

Screen Shot 2021-11-24 at 4.10.54 PM

Appeal to find 35-year-old missing from Oak Grove home

Police say he's not believed to be in danger.

vote, election

7 MN Republicans urge states to audit 2020 election results

There has been no evidence of significant fraud in any single U.S. state.