Hulk Hogan watches jury selection in trial of his $100 million suit against Gawker Media for publishing a clip of a sex tape involving him.
St. Petersburg, FL—Opposing sides in the $100-million Hulk Hogan-Gawker media sex tape trial agreed on a jury Friday after nearly a week of whittling down a 500-member jury pool. Bollea v. Gawker Media, 2012CA01244.
Hogan, whose legal name is Terry Bollea, is suing Gawker Media; the company’s CEO, Nick Denton; and former editor A.J. Daulerio for posting a clip from a sex video involving the wrestler and Heather Clem, ex-wife of radio celebrity Bubba “The Love Sponge” Clem.
The nine jurors seated Friday include six women and three men. Six jurors will ultimately render the verdict in the $100 million suit, with three alternates seated for the scheduled three-week trial.
Under questioning from Gawker’s attorney, Levine, Sullivan, Koch, & Schulz’s Michael Sullivan, a few of the chosen jurors said criticized the trustworthiness of some elements of the media. Juror number 3, one of the three men seated on the panel, said his trust in media stories depended on the source. “There’s some… that (are) probably more trustworthy as far as where you might go if you were looking for information, and others, like the National Enquirer, that you know is for entertainment,” juror 3 said.
Juror 28, one of the panel’s six women, agreed, but also criticized media that went beyond a celebrity’s professional life. “You have to decipher and verify all your sources, but there’s so much junk that’s on TV,” juror 28 said. “I’m interested in the job(-related) things they do, but not their personal life. I feel like that’s their business.”
Juror 25, another woman selected for the panel, said she believed negative or personally distasteful topics could still be considered broadly newsworthy. “There (are) things that other people don’t want to hear or don’t want to see, right? But, it is news.”
Hogan claims Gawker invaded his privacy by posting a clip from the video, which was made at the Clems’ home and allegedly without Hogan’s knowledge. Gawker contends the clip is constitutionally protected and newsworthy because Hogan has publicly discussed his sex life in interviews and books.
During Friday’s voir dire, Sullivan delved into jurors’ thoughts on how far speech and press freedoms extended. Juror number 16, a woman who was selected for the panel, said guarantees on free speech had definite boundaries. “There (are) certain things that aren’t protected,” juror 16 said, noting she believed constitutional protections could extend to otherwise legal conduct.
However, other prospective jurors went farther, offering reasons that likely factored in to their exclusion. Number 58, who was not selected for the trial, said he probably could not put aside his personal beliefs if they were at odds with the Judge Pamela Campbell’s instructions. “Invasion of privacy is not part of the First Amendment, as far as I’m concerned,” prospective juror 58 said.
Opening statements are set for Monday. CVN, which recorded jury selection, will provide gavel-to-gavel video of the trial live and on demand.
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