American Sniper on trial: The appeal

AmericanSniper I wrote about Jesse Ventura’s defamation/unjust enrichment lawsuit against the estate of Chris Kyle last year in American Sniper on trial” and in American Sniper on trial: The verdict.” The case arises from a couple of pages about Kyle’s close encounter with Ventura at a bar in southern California. Ventura alleged that the story Kyle recounted was false and defamatory and that the success of the book was attributable in part to the story Kyle told in those pages. A jury with two holdouts found in favor of Ventura. District Judge Richard Kyle (no relation to the family of Chris Kyle) entered judgment against the estate in the amount of nearly $2,000,000 on the two claims. The Kyle estate appealed the judgment to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Yesterday a panel of three judges heard oral argument of the the Kyle estate’s appeal at the federal courthouse in St. Paul. My former colleague and friend John Borger represented the Kyle estate at trial, but prominent DC media lawyer Lee Levine argued the case for the Kyle estate before the Eighth Circuit on appeal. Minneapolis attorney David Olsen argued the case for Ventura on appeal; Olsen had also represented Ventura at trial. Major media organizations have filed an amicus brief by Floyd Abrams supporting the Kyle appeal of the unjust enrichment award; the brief is posted online here.

The oral argument before the Eighth Circuit went for about 40 minutes. The Court has posted a recording of the argument here; it is accessible here by selecting October 2015 and clicking on the recording of Jesse Ventura vs. Taya Kyle (the ninth listed case).

Steve Karnowski is covering the appeal for the AP. Karnowski has background on the appeal in “Experts say free speech at stake in ‘America Sniper’ appeal.” He covered yesterday’s oral argument in “Appeals court weights $1.8M award to Ventura in ‘Sniper’ case.”

Ventura appeared outside the courthouse following the oral argument yesterday. The Star Tribune’s Abby Simmons and Randy Furst cover the argument and provide a brief account of Ventura’s remarks here. The Star Tribune has posted a video with excerpts of Ventura speaking outside the courthouse at the top of the Simmons and Furst story.

Ventura has become a visibly unsavory character of bad judgment. These qualities are on display in the video of his comments posted by the Star Tribune. In his comments Ventura mockingly disparaged the late Chris Kyle as “Superman.” Unfortunately, Kyle isn’t around any longer to defend himself. One is left to reflect what a poor excuse for a man Ventura is, and not just by contrast with Kyle.

As he has done in his lawsuit and elsewhere, outside the courthouse Ventura attributed the decline in his fortunes over the years to what Kyle wrote about him in American Sniper. If one were to take Ventura’s comments at face value, one might infer that Ventura is a man in need of an intervention of some kind. One wonders if he has any friends left. He needs to summon the fortitude to look at himself in the mirror.

It is frequently hazardous to predict the outcome of an appeal based on questions asked or comments made by the judges at oral argument, but the comments of Judge Riley suggest that Ventura’s side of the case has trouble ahead. The court’s opinion will likely not be issued for three or more months. In the meantime, interested readers may want to check out the recording of the oral argument linked above.