17 September 2007

Libel, American style

From a New York Daily News article about O. J. Simpson's recent robbery arrest in Las Vegas. Italics mine:

"They might actually nail him this time," said Marcia Clark, the Los Angeles prosecutor who bungled the Simpson murder case in 1995, when a jury let the Heisman Trophy winner walk in the slaying of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her pal Ron Goldman.

In this new drama, Vegas cops say The Juice led a group of pals - including a buddy who was in Sin City to renew his marriage vows - who burst into a hotel room Thursday night. Guns drawn, two of the men confronted two sports memorabilia dealers who were trying to sell some Simpson-related items as Simpson barked orders, Lt. Clint Nichols said.

"It was kind of scary," said Tom Riccio, another memorabilia dealer who tipped off Simpson about the sale and said he was there when the alleged theft went down.

Seems oddly sensitive, that second articulation, no? I suppose the reason that you can call him a murderer but only an alleged thief owes to the fact that the theft is still being prosecuted. To my Canadian ears, though, that first paragraph sounds presumptive and more than a little defamatory.

Of course, libel law here is much harsher than in the States. Canadian journalists are like that abused child from your primary school class—the one who, when the teacher raises her hand to fix her hair, recoils in fright.

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