The editorial was published on June 14, 2017, the same day a gunman opened fire at a Virginia baseball field where Republican congressmen were practicing, injuring several people, including Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise. The headline was “America’s Lethal Politics,” and the editors asked if the Virginia shooting was evidence of how cruel American politics had become. The Times corrected the editorial the morning after it was published after readers pointed out the error.
On the witness stand, Mr Bennet, who had misphrased the article, testified that the incident had left him feeling guilty and that he had thought about it almost every day since. “It was just a terrible mistake,” he said.
During the trial, Ms. Palin convinced the jury that Mr. Bennet had acted out of hostility towards her and, regardless of any remorse he later showed, made the mistake of a combination of carelessness and a willful omission of facts. Often the evidence they produced in internal Times emails and the responses they elicited over a week of testimonials gave an unflattering picture of the inner workings of the news organization.
Times journalists involved in writing, editing, and fact-checking the editorial testified about errors and mistakes they regretted. For example, the original writer of the article said on the witness stand that she had misread the version Mr. Bennett rewrote. A fact-checker said she had overlooked the political incitement rule that prompted Ms. Palin’s charges.
Lawyers for the Times pointed to a series of steps taken by Mr Bennet and others that they believe showed how seriously The Times had taken the matter when they learned of the error – including an email Mr Bennet received the morning after the publication of the editorial at 5 a.m. sent an attempt to resolve the issue as quickly as possible and the fact that, once it published a correction, The Times drew attention to it on social media.
Monday’s ruling by judge Jed S. Rakoff came in response to a routine procedural motion by Times attorneys to rule in his favor, which defendants have a right to do after the plaintiff presents all of his evidence to the jury. . He found The Times’ claims convincing, but also criticized the paper’s error as an example of “very unfortunate editing.”
His verdict also created an uneasy dynamic, as jurors deliberated in the hall of the courtroom. Although the judge ordered them not to read media coverage of the trial, some legal experts criticized him for making public a decision that could have influenced their judgment had they heard of it.
There were no immediate signs that anything had happened. The jury deliberated for about five hours on Tuesday before announcing its verdict just after 2:30 p.m.