Jurors in the Sarah Palin trial said they knew of the judge’s decision to dismiss before their verdict.
Several jurors in the defamation case brought by Sarah Palin against The New York Times said they found out about the judge’s decision to dismiss the case while they were still deliberating, the judge, Jed S. Rakoff, said in an order on Wednesday.
On Monday, while jurors were still deliberating, Judge Rakoff said he planned to dismiss the case if the jury found in Ms. Palin’s favor. The next day, the jury delivered its verdict, also rejecting Ms. Palin’s claim that The Times had libeled her in a 2017 editorial that erroneously linked her political rhetoric to a mass shooting.
In an order on Wednesday, Judge Rakoff said that the court’s law clerk had spoken with the jury after the trial as part of routine inquiries and was told by several jurors that they had found out about the ruling through push notifications from news websites on their smartphones.
“The jurors repeatedly assured the court’s law clerk that these notifications had not affected them in any way or played any role whatever in their deliberations,” Judge Rakoff wrote.
Ms. Palin, the former Alaska governor and a vice-presidential nominee in 2008, filed her suit against The Times in 2017, accusing the newspaper of defaming her in an editorial that incorrectly linked her political rhetoric with a 2011 mass shooting. The Times corrected the error the morning after the editorial was published.
The case was seen as a test of the landmark 1964 Supreme Court decision, The New York Times Company v. Sullivan, which set a high bar of proof for public officials claiming defamation. By ruling in favor of The Times on Tuesday, the jury affirmed the precedent, finding that newspaper and its former opinion editor, James Bennet, had not acted with the level of malice or recklessness claimed by Ms. Palin’s team. Public figures must prove that a news organization acted with “actual malice” in publishing false information, meaning it displayed a reckless disregard for the truth or knew the information was false.
Ms. Palin is expected to appeal the verdict. Judge Rakoff said on Wednesday that although neither party objected to his issuing of a ruling while allowing the jury to continue deliberations, he was bringing the issue of the jurors being notified to both parties’ attention in “an excess of caution.”
“If any party feels there is any relief they seek based on the above, counsel should promptly initiate a joint phone conference with the court to discuss whether any further proceedings are appropriate,” Judge Rakoff wrote.
Lawyers for Ms. Palin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.