III. Slander - CONCLUSION

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III. Slander - CONCLUSION

Post by Mama2JML on Fri Mar 22, 2013 6:55 am

III. Slander
In addition to his claims for libel, plaintiff asserts that several statements made by defendants to the press fit within one of the categories of slander per se recognized by Georgia law: imputing to another a crime punishable by law. O.C.G.A. § 51-5^4(a). In particular, plaintiff refers to defendants' March 24, 2000 appearance on the Today Show with host Katie Couric. During the course of the broadcast, the following conversation occurred:
Katie Couric: You pepper the book with fleeting references to some other people that you seem to question. You talk about Bill McReynolds, who played Santa at your Christmas party. You also mention his wife who, in a strange twist, wrote a play years before about a girl murdered in a basement.
John Ramsey: The point in the book was to clarify from our viewpoint why these people have been mentioned a lot in the media, and also to point out that there are legitimate leads that need to be followed.
. . . . .
Katie Couric: You also mention Chris Wolfe, a total stranger whose girl
[ 253 F.Supp.2d 1364 ]

friend reported that he disappeared on Christmas night and was very agitated, rather—when he watched the news of the murder on TV.
John Ramsey: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Katie Couric: Why do you mention him.
John Ramsey: Because he'd been widely mentioned in the news. And we wanted to clarify the facts that we knew.
John Ramsey: I can tell you when— when we first started looking at—at one particular lead early on—my reaction was, "This is it. This is the killer." And our investigator said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa." He'd say, "Don't do a Boulder Police on me. Don't rush to conclusions."
(Transcript of Today Show, March 24, 2000.) (emphasis added) The parties agree that, as Mr. Ramsey made the last statement, NBC displayed a picture of Chris Wolf on the screen.
As with the libelous statements discussed above, while not textbook, these statements are arguably slanderous. With the slander claim, however, the factual predicate for plaintiffs malice argument is weaker than with the libel claim. Specifically, although the emphasized quote suggests Mr. Ramsey's belief that an unnamed suspect might be the killer—which was a malicious statement, if Mr. Ramsey knew that his wife was the killer—plaintiff has not demonstrated that defendant John Ramsey intended to refer to plaintiff when he made that statement. Moreover, even though the photograph of plaintiff appeared on the screen when defendant made the statement, it is undisputed that defendant had no control over NBC's editing decisions.
Nevertheless, even had defendant intended to refer to plaintiff, the statements are still not malicious, for the reasons discussed supra, with regard to the libel claim. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS defendants' motion for summary judgment as to plaintiffs slander claim.

CONCLUSION
For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS defendants' motion for summary judgment [67]; GRANTS as to Ms. Wong and GRANTS in part and DENIES in part as to Mr. Epstein defendants' motion in limine to exclude the testimony of Cina Wong and Gideon Epstein [68]; and DNIES defendants' motion for oral argument [79].

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