MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered a new defamation trial for the man who sued two media outlets for reporting he was arrested and identified as a suspect in the fatal shooting of a police officer in 2012.
The 5-2 ruling said that the fair and accurate reporting privilege provided by the First Amendment protects information provided by law enforcement at press conferences, the Star Tribune reported. However, the high court sent the case back for a new trial regarding five of the 11 statements that Ryan Larson claimed were defamatory.
Larson, then 34, was arrested shortly after the November of 2012 slaying of Cold Spring Police Officer Thomas Decker, who was shot twice while responding to Larson’s apartment on a welfare check. Larson was arrested that night, but he was later released and never charged in Decker’s death. Larson went on to sue media outlets that reported on his arrest and named him as a suspect.
A jury ruled in favor of KARE-11 and the St. Cloud Times in 2016, but a district judge set that verdict aside and ordered a new trial. The Minnesota Court of Appeals overturned that ruling in 2018 and Larson appealed to the state Supreme Court.
“It’s important the media be held accountable for defaming a private citizen,” Larson’s lawyer Stephen Fiebiger said. “We’re certainly glad to have the new trial ordered and the ability to have a new day in court.”
Steven Wells, who represents KARE-11 and the newspaper, said the media outlets were gratified that the court found that fair use privilege applies to law enforcement, which was something the high court had not yet done.
“But they’re disappointed the Supreme Court decided to overturn a jury verdict in our favor,” Wells said. “It’s very difficult to understand what the court has done.”
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