Celebrity activism may get a bit tiresome, but the famous are of course free to speak, just like the rest of us.
A federal district court in Arkansas dismissed a lawsuit brought against Dixie Chick Natalie Maines and her bandmates by Terry Hobbs, who claimed she falsely accused him of the murder of three children by citing evidence in a habeas writ filed on behalf of one of the men convicted for the murders.
Maines posted the letter at issue on the band’s website.
Harvard’s Citizen Media Law Project has the full report.
The case is particularly interesting because Maines was writing on behalf of “The Memphis Three” — three then teenagers who were convicted of murdering three 8-year-old boys in 1993. The conviction has been repeatedly questioned, most specifically in two HBO documentaries.
Maines letter quoted a press release summarizing one of the convicted men’s arguments that Hobbs and another man were responsible for the murder. Hobbs has denied involvement, but has commented publicly and repeatedly about the case.
Media Law Project: The court determined that no reasonable jury could find that Maines and her co-defendants acted with actual malice—that is, that they “made the statements at issue with knowledge that the statements were false or with reckless disregard for whether they were false or not.”
The court was not overly concerned that Maines didn’t read Echols’ 188-page brief, which originally outlined the evidence in question. Instead, the court focused on Maines’ word-for-word use of the press release that was approved by Echols’ defence attorneys, implicitly finding that this reliance on the legal experts was justifiable.
Maines is perhaps best known for saying on stage in 2003 that the band was ashamed then-president George W. Bush was from Texas. Boycotts of the bands’ music and protests at their concerts ensued.
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