Jury still undecided in defamation case brought by Jesse Ventura

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 22, 2014 11:01 AM

By Todd Melby

ST PAUL Minn. (Reuters) - A jury deliberated for a second day on Wednesday without reaching a verdict in a defamation lawsuit brought by former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura alleging his reputation was sullied by claims in a former Navy SEAL's book about his involvement in a bar fight.

In closing arguments a day earlier, defense lawyers said Ventura, a former professional wrestler, was a publicity seeker trying to grab headlines by filing a defamation case against the estate of a fellow ex-Navy SEAL, Chris Kyle, who died after serving his country with honor.

In Kyle's book, "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History," he alludes to a bar fight in which he hits someone who made disparaging comments about Navy SEALs.

While Ventura is not named as the other party in the fight, Kyle later gave media interviews in which he attributed the disparaging comments to the former politician.

Lawyers for Ventura, who is seeking an undisclosed amount in damages, said the fallout from the book left his TV career in shambles. They said their client was defamed by the section chronicling a bar fight between the two men.

Ventura, who says he quit drinking in 2002 due to blood thinning medication, contends the fight never happened and that he did not recall meeting Kyle, who was killed in 2013 at a Texas shooting range by a troubled Iraq war veteran.

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Jurors deliberated for about seven hours on Wednesday and four hours on Tuesday without reaching a verdict. They will reconvene on Thursday.

The jury is being asked to determine whether Ventura was defamed, whether the statements the book made about him were false and, because Ventura is a public figure, if Kyle made them with actual malice, a higher standard than for ordinary citizens.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Eric Walsh)