Appeals court rules for AJC

Richard Jewell's libel case against The Atlanta Journal-Constitution suffered what could be a knock-out punch Oct. 10.

The Georgia Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's ruling that Jewell was a public figure when the AJC reported he was a suspect in the 1996 bombing at Centennial Olympic Park. The court ruled that due to the interviews he gave in the days following the bombing, Jewell became a public figure.

The appeals court also reversed a lower court ruling that had demanded that AJC reporters disclose the identity of their sources of information concerning Jewell.

"It's almost to the point of shocking how this court slanted itself against Richard Jewell," says Lin Wood, who's representing the former security guard in his multi-million dollar lawsuit against the AJC.

"Public figures" have higher burdens of proof in libel cases. They must prove not just that they were harmed by a story, but that the story was published with malice, or reckless disregard for the truth.

"Throughout this case, we have sought to focus the court's attention on the actual reporting," says Peter Canfield, attorney for the AJC. "The reporting is accurate. ... There is no basis for a libel claim."

Wood says he plans to appeal the decisions to the Georgia Supreme Court. It should be two to three months before that court decides whether to hear the case.??

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