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No verdict yet from jury in Alex Jones' Sandy Hook trial

Jurors concluded their first full day of deliberations without reaching a verdict Friday in a trial to determine how much conspiracy theorist Alex Jones should pay for spreading the lie that the 2012 Sandy Hook School shooting was a hoax.

Associated Press

Oct 7, 2022, 12:46 PM

Updated 625 days ago

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Jurors concluded their first full day of deliberations without reaching a verdict Friday in a trial to determine how much conspiracy theorist Alex Jones should pay for spreading the lie that the 2012 Sandy Hook School shooting was a hoax.
Jurors are scheduled to return Tuesday. After deliberating just briefly Thursday afternoon, the panel got back to business Friday with a request for a dry-erase easel, markers, an eraser and a copy of the jury instructions.
Last year, Jones was found liable for damages. The jury’s task is to decide how much Jones and his company Free Speech Systems should pay to relatives of eight Sandy Hook victims and to an FBI agent who responded to the massacre.
The plaintiffs testified they have been tormented and threatened by people who believed that one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history was a con staged to build support for gun restrictions. Jones repeatedly publicized that false notion on his “Infowars” show.
Twenty children and six adults were killed when a gunman stormed Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012.
Jones testified in the trial, saying he was “done saying I’m sorry” for calling the school shooting a hoax. His lawyers have argued that he’s not responsible for the deeds of anyone who tormented the victims’ families, and that they are overstating how much harm the conspiracy theory caused them.
Outside court, Jones has bashed the trial as a “kangaroo court” that aims to stomp on his free speech rights and put him out of business.
In a similar trial in Texas in August, a jury ordered Jones to pay nearly $50 million in damages to the parents of one of the children killed in the shooting, because of the hoax lies.
Here are some questions and answers about the deliberations.

COULD THE JURY DECIDE THAT WHAT JONES DID IS PROTECTED BY THE FIRST AMENDMENT?

No. A judge has already ruled that Jones is liable for defamation, infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy and violating Connecticut's unfair trade practices law. The jury’s job is to decide how much he owes for harming the people who sued him over his lies.

HOW MUCH COULD JONES PAY?

Jones, who lives in Austin, Texas, could be ordered to pay as little as $1 to each plaintiff or potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to them. The decision will be based on whether the jury determines the harm to the families was minimal or extensive.
Christopher Mattei, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the jury should award the plaintiffs at least $550 million. Jones' lawyer, Norm Pattis, says any damages awarded should be minimal.

HOW DOES THE JURY COME UP WITH THE DOLLAR FIGURES?

In her instructions to the jury, Judge Barbara Bellis said there are no mathematical formulas for determining dollar amounts. Jurors, she said, should use their life experiences and common sense to award damages that are “fair, just and reasonable.”
The jury, however, heard evidence and testimony that Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems, made millions of dollars from selling nutritional supplements, survival gear and other items. A company representative testified it has made at least $100 million in the past decade.

WHAT KIND OF DAMAGES ARE THE JURY CONSIDERING?

Jurors could award both compensatory and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages are often meant to reimburse people for actual costs such as medical bills and income loss, but they also include compensation for emotional distress that can reach into the millions of dollars.
Punitive damages are meant to punish a person for their conduct. If the jury decides Jones should pay punitive damages, the judge would determine the amount.

DOES CONNECTICUT CAP DAMAGES?

No, and yes. The state does not limit compensatory damages, while punitive damages are limited in many cases to attorney's fees and costs. So if the jury says Jones should pay punitive damages, he would potentially have to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Sandy Hook families' lawyers' costs.

IS THIS THE FIRST TIME JONES HAS FACED A VERDICT LIKE THIS?

No. At a similar trial in Texas in August, a jury ordered the Infowars show host to pay nearly $50 million to the parents of one of the children killed in the school shooting for pushing the lie that the massacre was a hoax.
But legal experts say Jones probably won't pay the full amount. In most civil cases, Texas law limits how much defendants have to pay in “exemplary,” or punitive, damages to twice the “economic damages” plus up to $750,000. But jurors are not told about this cap. Eye-popping verdicts are often hacked down by judges.
A third trial in Texas involving the parents of another child slain at Sandy Hook is expected to begin near the end of the year.


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