Rakoff’s ruling came while the jury is deliberating over a verdict — and Rakoff said he will allow the jury to continue deliberating and to reach a verdict, and will dismiss the case once it has done so.
Rakoff presented his findings in court on Monday with an eye toward an inevitable appeals process.
The judge in the closely-watched trial said Palin did not prove “actual malice,” which is the standard her legal team had to meet in her defamation case.
“I think this an example of very unfortunate editorializing on the part of the Times,” Rakoff said in his decision in court Monday. “The law here sets a very high standard (for actual malice.) The court finds that that standard has not been met.”
Rakoff ruled that the jury will continue to deliberate on whether the Times is liable for defaming Palin. If the jury comes back with a verdict finding the Times was not liable, the judge indicated that he will allow the jury’s verdict to stand. If the jury finds the Times liable, Rakoff is expected to set aside its verdict and replace it with a verdict as a matter of law in favor of The New York Times.
Rakoff said he was “not altogether happy with having to make this decision in favor of the defendants.”
Attorneys for the New York Times hugged each other after the decision was made in court. Palin’s attorneys had no comment when asked by CNN.
Rakoff said earlier on Monday that no matter the jury’s decision, “this is the kind of case that will inevitably go up on appeal.”
The jury of nine, five women and four men, have been deliberating for nearly nine hours. They started deliberating around 4p.m. on Friday after sitting through seven days of trial.
Palin sued the Times and its former editorial page editor James Bennet in 2017 after they published an editorial that erroneously linked a map that Palin’s political action committee had posted to a shooting in 2011 that killed six and injured former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
The editorial in question was called “America’s Lethal Politics” and it was published on the day of the shooting at a baseball practice that injured Congressman Steve Scalise. It was meant to address heated political rhetoric ahead of the shooting, but it erroneously said that there was a “clear” link between a map that had crosshairs over congressional districts, including Giffords’, and the shooting that injured her. Bennet testified that he added language about there being a clear link and that once he realized his error, he worked to quickly issue a correction.
Palin testified she was “mortified” that the Times falsely accused her of inciting the murder of those six people, which included a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, six years after that deadly shooting.
Bennet testified that he was surprised that some people interpreted the editorial as saying the man who shot Giffords and others was incited by Palin, testifying “that is not the message we intended to send.”
Judge in Sarah Palin’s defamation suit against New York Times says he will dismiss case