I have met Mr. L. Lin Wood Jr. briefly in 2009 and I have listened via phone as both Mr. Wood and Mr. Neal McCabe argued Motions in the Harris County Court. However I have never had the privilege of seeing any of these attorneys, L. Lin Wood, Charles “Chip” Babcock, Harry Susman, etc. argue a Motion in person.
For anyone who would like to see L. Lin Wood in a court room this Bryant v. Cox Enterprises video is a must see.
On February 9, 2011 Mr. Wood argued the case of Bryant v. Cox Enterprises in front of the Georgia Appeals Court. The state Court of Appeals’ justices hearing this case is presiding Judge J.D. Smith, who is hearing the case along with Judge Charles B. Mikell and Judge Stephen L. A. Dillard
This case is now the estate of Richard Jewell vs The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Following the death of Mr. Jewell the case became titled Bryant v Cox Enterprises. The official plaintiff in this case is now G. Watson Bryant Jr., Jewell’s former attorney, who was designated executor of Jewell’s estate in his will. Cox Enterprises is the owner of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“I have sought justice for Richard Jewell for 14 years,” Wood told the judges.
Jewell was cleared of the Olympic Park bombing that killed one person and injured more than 100. In 2005, Eric Robert Rudolph confessed to the bombing and was sent to prison for life. Richard Jewell has since died of heart problems from a complication of his diabetes.
The estate of Richard Jewell is continuing to press the late security guard’s libel claims against the newspaper. At issue are stories published in July and August 1996 in which the newspaper reported that authorities suspected Jewell of planting the Olympic park bomb and believed he made an anonymous 911 call warning of an impending bombing. Jewell’s estate also is pressing a libel claim over a column by a Journal-Constitution sports writer that drew parallels between the investigations of Jewell and Wayne Williams, a convicted killer long considered the perpetrator of the Atlanta child murders.
Bryan Cave partner L. Lin Wood Jr., who has pursued the lawsuit against the Journal-Constitution since 1997, told the panel of Court of Appeals judges that statements in the newspaper’s articles were simply false. “We now know that Richard Jewell did not plant the bomb,” he said, saying the same was true for allegations about the 911 call. For those of us who did not follow the case of Richard Jewell and the allegations against him, Wood drew a mental picture during his argument of the horrors of that day before the appeals court including playing the audio of the anonymous 911 call and placing the words of the call on a screen. “You have just heard … the voice of someone you know is a cold-blooded killer,” Wood told the judges.
The newspaper filed a motion for summary judgment in December 1998—a motion on which Fulton County State Court Judge John R. Mather did not rule until late 2006. The appellate court had previously ruled that Jewell was a limited public figure, meaning Jewell had to prove that the newspaper acted with actual malice or reckless disregard of the truth.
Squarely at issue in the appeal heard Wednesday was Mather’s grant of summary judgment to the Journal-Constitution on all but one of Jewell’s libel claims in October 2006. Mather, ruled that the Aug. 4, 1996 story could be libelous because by then the Journal-Constitution had learned Jewell could not have made the 911 call and discovered the bomb moments later because of the distance between the two points.
Jewell’s legal team took the unusual step of all but acquiescing to the grant of summary judgment on that claim on the notion that to have the appellate courts consider Mather’s summary judgment rulings now would make multiple trials less likely. Wood’s decision to go all in with the appellate courts, rather than go to trial on Jewell’s claim over the Aug. 4 story, may mean a trial in the case never happens.
On the Aug. 4 Journal-Constitution story, Justice Smith wanted to know more about the column referencing Williams. Peter C. Canfield of Dow Lohnes, the newspaper’s longtime lead attorney on the case told the judges that the column didn’t say Jewell was guilty and the column suggested that investigators searching his mother’s apartment weren’t finding any evidence. Justice Smith asked, “you’re saying Journal-Constitution copy editors—who testified in depositions that they had expressed concern about the column before it ran—had no reason for concern?” Canfield responded that “Their concern was fairness, not falsity.”
On rebuttal, Wood said the copy editors said the column was libelous because of the comparison with Williams. And Wood took umbrage at Canfield’s previous suggestions that Jewell’s side has litigated the case with an eye more to the media and movie deals than having the case resolved on the merits.
If you have not seen the brief video of the Anna Nicole Smith Opera that has sold out all six performances in London at the Royal London Opera and is receiving good reviews I suggest viewing that short video.
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On February 16, 2011 the South Carolina Court issued an Order and Opinion denying Susan M. Brown’s request to dismiss the suit in regards to her personally and her law firm. The court docket shows jury selection is to begin on February 22, 2011 for that case.
February 19, 2011
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