828 F.2d 475 (8th Cir. 1987), 86-2180, Speer v. Ottaway Newspapers, Inc.

Docket Nº:86-2180, 86-2222.
Citation:828 F.2d 475
Party Name:Don R. SPEER, Appellant, v. OTTAWAY NEWSPAPERS, INC., Appellee. Don R. SPEER, Appellee, v. OTTAWAY NEWSPAPERS, INC., Appellant.
Case Date:September 09, 1987
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Page 475

828 F.2d 475 (8th Cir. 1987)

Don R. SPEER, Appellant,

v.

OTTAWAY NEWSPAPERS, INC., Appellee.

Don R. SPEER, Appellee,

v.

OTTAWAY NEWSPAPERS, INC., Appellant.

Nos. 86-2180, 86-2222.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

September 9, 1987

Submitted April 13, 1987.

Page 476

Michael W. Manners, Independence, Mo., for appellant.

Charles Buchanan, Joplin, Mo., for appellee.

Before McMILLIAN, Circuit Judge, BRIGHT, Senior Circuit Judge, and FAGG, Circuit Judge.

FAGG, Circuit Judge.

Don R. Speer, a police officer, appeals the entry of judgment notwithstanding the verdict against him in his libel suit against Ottaway Newspapers, Inc., owner of the Joplin, Missouri, Globe. The district court based its posttrial ruling on the insufficiency of evidence to establish the Globe's actual malice. Speer argues the court committed error in refusing to attribute to the Globe the knowledge of its reporter gained in the course of his employment, regardless of the nature of the reporter's role in the publication of the libelous statement. We affirm.

Max McCoy, a reporter for the Globe, was arrested by Speer on April 23, 1983, while taking photographs at a demonstration in front of a gay bar. McCoy told Globe editors Speer and the other police officers present used excessive force in making the arrest. An article reflecting both the police's and McCoy's versions of the incident, written by another Globe reporter, appeared in the Globe the next day. On April 26 the Globe published an editorial condemning Speer's conduct at the demonstration and stating specifically that while McCoy was "cuffed and defenseless, the officers continued to strike him, kick him." This statement became the basis for Speer's claim of libel as submitted to the jury, and the jury awarded Speer $100,000 actual damages and $50,000 punitive damages.

A jury believing the evidence introduced by Speer and discounting conflicting testimony could determine McCoy knew the account of the arrest he relayed to Globe editors was false and that the Globe's editorial incorporated some portion of McCoy's falsehood. Under the first amendment, however, Speer's award may be reinstated only if the Globe published the offending statement with " 'actual malice'--that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not." New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 280, 84 S.Ct. 710, 726, 11 L.Ed.2d 686 (1964). Speer did not challenge the district court's instruction requiring the jury to find actual malice on the part of "the officers or employees of [the Globe ] having responsibility for the publication of such statement," see id. at 287, 84 S.Ct. at 730, and the district court granted judgment notwithstanding the verdict on the ground Speer failed to offer adequate evidence on this issue.

The issues we must decide are first, whether under the record in this case Speer has established with convincing clarity, see id. at 285-86, 84 S.Ct. at 728-29, that McCoy was a...

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