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Murphy v. Boston Herald Update

The Boston Herald, already stung with a $2 Million libel verdict, upheld in a questionable decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, just wired the plaintiff an additional $1.4 million to cover interest payments on the award. (Prior posting on the case).

Apparently, the reporter, David Wedge, may be considering an appeal to the US Supreme Court. At least that is the implication I read into his attorney’s refusal to state that he hasn’t ruled it out.

I hope that they don’t capitulate this easily. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts simply got this one wrong — and opened the door to some serious damage to the freedom of the press in the process. Lying down and playing dead, at this point, would mean that the Herald has truly abandoned its post as a member of the Fourth Estate. I’d bet my bottom dollar that David Wedge, wants to appeal. But, while the paper has publicly supported him in a mighty classy way, the news media isn’t the same defender of free speech rights that it was in the New York Times v. Sullivan days. It seems like they are willing to roll over and die. Even more unfortunately, the rest of the cowardly news media isn’t clamoring for a reversal.

The hell with the First Amendment then… lets just look at a petition for certiorari as a business decision. The Herald paid the judgment. There is no post-judgment interest accruing, and a petition for certiorari, while not cheap, is a drop in the bucket when you look at the $3.4 million they have already paid. Why not throw a few bucks at a possible reversal? A petition for certiorari would cost less than 1/100th of what they already paid out, and they’d have (statistically) a 1 in 100 shot at petition being granted.

I get the feeling that this Supreme Court would reverse, if given the opportunity. This isn’t the most First Amendment friendly Court, but I really do believe that this was an improper decision by the SJC. I didn’t initially, but upon reflection, I reversed myself.

This is one First Amendment crusader who is strongly rooting for David Wedge and the Boston Herald.

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