Tabloid Linking of Hunt to Kennedy Death Not Libel
A federal court jury ruled against Watergate conspirator E. Howard Hunt today in his $1-million libel suit against a tabloid that linked him to President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
The jury of four men and two women deliberated three hours before finding for The Spotlight, a conservative tabloid operated by the Liberty Lobby in Washington, D.C.
Hunt sat without expression when the verdict was returned. Defense lawyer Mark Lane, author of the best seller, “Rush to Judgment,” which criticized the Warren Commission’s assassination report, smiled.
The case was heard four years ago with a jury awarding Hunt $650,000, but that verdict was later overturned because of flawed instructions to the jury.
In closing arguments Tuesday, Hunt’s lawyers told the jury that if they found the publication innocent of libel, they would be branding Hunt “the John Wilkes Booth of the 20th Century.”
Hunt’s lawyer, William Snyder, recommended that Hunt, a former CIA agent, be awarded $500,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages for the Aug. 14, 1978 article.
The article, headlined “CIA to Nail Hunt in Kennedy Killing” and written by Victor Marchetti, also a former CIA agent, said a 1966 CIA memo indicated that Hunt was in Dallas the day Kennedy was shot. It said he was disguised as one of three “bums” who were arrested in Dallas the day Kennedy died.