NEXT DEVELOPMENT:
Fox Vows To Appeal

Fox Lawyers Say They Will Move To Have The Jury Verdict Set Aside

Report Archive:

Ž August 5, 2000:
Guest Editorial


Ž July 27, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Days 8-9
Startling Admission from Fox
V-P Who Fired Wilson/Akre

Ž July 26, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 7
V-P News Lays Claim To
Insanity Defense

Ž July 24, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 6
Second week of trial begins

Ž July 21, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 5
Week one ends with a bang;
Fox seeks mistrial, Judge
says no

Ž  July 20, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Days 3 and 4 

Ž July 18, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 2


Ž July 17, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 1

Ž July 14, 2000:
Justice For Sale In Tampa?
Finally at the courthouse,
litigants can't afford to use
the courtroom facilities

Ž July 12, 2000:
Fox Loses Key Motion; Jury
Is Seated

Plaintiffs do not have to
prove Fox guilty of violating Communications Act

Ž July 8, 2000:
Potential Landmine Could
Derail Entire Case

Ž June 30, 2000:
Judge Steinberg Ready To
Get Case Back On Track

Ž June 26, 2000:
Another Judge Says 'No' to Hearing Wilson/Akre v Fox Case

Ž June 21, 2000:
Still No Judge To Hear Fox/BGH Case While Foxes Dishes More Distortion To WTVT Tampa Viewers

Ž June 16, 2000:
Trial Date Pushed Back Again; New Judge To Be Selected

Ž June 8, 2000:
Fox  Manager Who Fired Akre and Wilson In Tampa Gets Big Promotion 
David Boylan Flies Into The Sunset to Manage KTTV, Los Angeles

Ž June 6, 2000:
Fox Trial Will Start Sooner Than Expected
It will proceed in the heat of the summer, probably in July

Ž May 25, 2000:
Fox Trial Will Not Start June 12 as Scheduled

Ž May 18, 2000:
Fox Still Stalls on Testimony of Its president Mitchell Stern
Pre-trial hearing is otherwise uneventful

Ž May 8, 2000:
Ralph Nader Testifies About Broadcasters' Public Interest Requirement
Presidential candidate gives testimony at pre-trial depo 

Ž May 5, 2000:
Court-ordered Mediation Is Brief and Unsuccessful
Trial set to begin June 12

Ž April 28,2000:
Fox Challenges rBGH Experts At Depositions

Fox lawyers laying ground-
work to tell jurors experts are cancer scaremongers?

Ž April 26,2000:
Walter Cronkite Testifies on Behalf of Akre & Wilson
Fox lawyers lodge objections

Ž October 19:
Fox Lawyers Insist On Secrecy At Deposition
French TV Ejected

Ž October 18:
FDA Wants Comments on G-M Foods
Public Meetings Start in November

Ž October 13:
Judge Rules: Trial Will Proceed: Defense loses third effort to have case dismissed

Ž September 24:
MSNBC: Gene-modified foods might get labels:
Industry weighs voluntary steps, U.S. studies options as well

Ž September 20:
Trial Still Set to Start Soon: Busy Docket Delays foxBGHsuit

Ž August 4:
MSNBC: Mutable Feast:
Will the fight over gene-altered food products leapfrog across the Atlantic?

Ž June 30:
Consumers International:
UN Health Group Shuns BGH

Ž June 1:
New York Times:
Farmers’ Right To Sue Grows - Food Warning Muzzle Likely

Ž May 10:
Corporate Crime Reporter:
Monsanto Officials Join Leading Consumer, Environmental Groups

Ž May 3:
Fox Deceives Viewers in Primetime, Too
Net Admits Staging after INSIDE EDITION Report

Ž April 30:
Democracy Group Award to Akre/Wilson
Fired Reporters Cited for "Courage in Journalism"

Ž April 29:
New Trial Date is October 11
Fox Piles On Big-Name Lawyers

Ž April 17:
Clinton Lawyer Joins Fox Legal Team
David Kendall Involvement Confirmed in Letter to Monsanto

Ž April 16:
Fox Pleads for Another Delay
Later Trial Date to be Set April 29th

Ž April 1:
Judge Says BGH Case Will Go To Trial
Opening Gavel Falls May 10th

Ž February 16:
PENTHOUSE Exposes BGH, Fox Coverup:
First-rate story of BGH situation and lawsuit against Fox TV (rated G -- no nudity, just the story)

Ž January 25:
ENS Summary of BGH Developments

Ž January 14:
How Fox Wanted to Slant News of Canadian Concerns
Canadian BGH Concerns Were Big Issue In Firing of Fox Reporters

Ž January 14:
Canada Says NO to BGH!
Read the CBC Story or View-Listen to report with RealPlayer

Ž January 14:
Health Canada Rejects Bovine Growth Hormone in Canada
Government News Release

Ž December 16:
Akre & Wilson Win Courage Award
For Work On Story Which Cost Them Their Jobs

Ž December 15:
ABC NEWS Catches Up on BGH
Read the ABC Story or View-Listen to report with RealPlayer

Ž November 7:
FOX Legal (8/28) Answers
to Reporters' Complaint Now Available

Ž November 1:
Monsanto and Fox: Partners in Censorship
PR Watch - Showcase Article

Ž October 30:
Canadians Probe Coverup Claim
Read CBC Story or View-Listen to report with RealPlayer

Ž October 24:
Reporters Get Top SPJ Ethics Award

Ž October 22:
BGH Issue Explodes in Canada:
Read CBC Story or View-Listen to report with RealPlayer

Ž October 7:
SECRET Canadian Study Leaked...
...BGH safety questions unanswered?

Ž Sept 13:
Akre-Wilson Depos Start

Ž Sept 10:
TIMES/St. Petersburg
SP Times covers NutraSweet flap

Ž Sept 10:
Our Story: Fox Still Protecting Monsanto?

Ž Sept 8:
Fox Pulls Plug on NutraSweet Foe

Ž Sept 1:
Reporters Respond To Defense

Ž READ story FOX-TV refused to air...
or View-Listen to report with RealPlayer

Ž July 14:
Judge refuses to dismiss
all but one count of reporters' suit

Ž July 5:
OBSERVER/London
Digger Still Plays Dirty

Ž July 1:
Depositions Continue, Trial Date Set

Ž June 7:
TIMES/St. Petersburg
Akre/Wilson Preparing FCC Complaint

Ž May 26:
Judge rejects Defense motion
for Protective Order

Ž May 25:
WEEKLY PLANET/Tampa:
Grazing A Stink - - -Don't Have a Cow

Ž May 23:
NEW YORK TIMES:
(Silenced) Reporters... Post Web Site

Ž May 21:
Wilson/Akre demand on-air correction

Ž April 29:
FOX-TV asks court:
Dismiss case and Delay depositions

V I C T O R Y !


CELEBRATING  VICTORY  OVER  PRESIDENT'S LAWYERS  AND  MURDOCH'S  MEDIA  EMPIRE
In front of a Monsanto warning label are (from left) lead Plaintiff's lawyer John Chamblee, Steve Wilson, attorneys Tom Johnson, Tracy Martinell, and Jane Akre 

Back To D.C.
Fox Attorney William McDaniels leaves court following defeat 
                    By STEVE WILSON
        TAMPA (August 18, 2000)—After listening to all the evidence for five full weeks and deliberating more than six hours, a state court jury has agreed with what fired journalists Steve Wilson and Jane Akre said long ago:  Fox Television pressured them to broadcast a false, distorted or slanted news report.
       
The jury awarded $425,000 in damages after finding the evidence proved that Fox took retaliatory personnel action against Akre because she threatened to blow the whistle to the Federal Communications Commission.          
        
The jury did not find for Wilson 
apparently because they concluded that Fox’s decision not to renew his contract was not based solely on a threat to blow the whistle to the FCC.  
        Nonetheless, Wilson said the couple shared the victory because, in finding for Jane Akre, the jury determined that the plaintiffs proved Fox acted intentionally and deliberately to falsify or distort the news report about Monsanto's Bovine Growth Hormone 
        According to a published report in the St. Petersburg Times, Fox V-P News Phil Metlin claimed, "The jury realized that Fox never told anyone to
lie, distort or slant the news.

           MORE
     COVERAGE

Ψ    
Akre Reacts
Ψ     Wilson Reacts
Ψ     Jury Verdict Form
Ψ     Jury Instructions
Ψ     Steve's Message to Monsanto
Ψ     Fox Still Lying
Ψ     The Mainstream
News Coverage

Ψ    Thanks Around
The World

 

 

        "This is a wonderful day," Metlin told the Times and WTVT in an interview that was also aired on the station's 10 p.m. news broadcast.  He and other Fox executives refused comment to The BGH Bulletin as they left the courthouse after the verdict.
       Chief defense attorney William McDaniels of the Washington firm Williams & Connolly that represents President Clinton, said the defeated defendants would have a statement later in the evening and promised to provide it but never did.  
        
Fox has indicated it intends to appeal the damage award the jury gave to Akre.
         "We're these guys at the same trial I was at?" Akre asked after watching WTVT's reporting of the verdict on the station's newscast Friday night.  
         "They think this jury decided Fox never told anyone to lie, distort or slant the news?" co-plaintiff Wilson asked.  "Poor Mr. Metlin must have gone somewhere to drown his sorrows before drawing a conclusion like that!
        "And as for Fox lawyer Ted Russell making a similar statement on the air," Wilson continued, "he's just doing what the jury saw Fox lawyers often do.  They frequently have, shall we say, a unique interpretation of the truth."
        The jury instructions made it clear that in order to find that Fox violated Florida's whistleblower law--which it did find in Akre's case--proof of a violation requires a finding that the station did act intentionally and deliberately to distort the news.  (A full set of the instructions, all 32 pages, are now available here in pdf format)

 The Final Day
        The last day of the grueling, five-week-long trial began with the litigants agreeing on final jury instructions and the verdict form which would be given to the panel.
        Fox had proposed lengthy instructions and a multi-page jury verdict form for each defendant.  The final instructions both sides agreed to were written on 32 pages but the verdict form itself was pared down to a single page for each plaintiff.
        Shortly after10 a.m. trial Judge Ralph Steinberg began the half-hour task of reading the instructions to the jury before sending them into the jury room to begin deliberations.
        Bruce Gold, the seventh and alternate juror, was then released by the judge who thanked him for his five weeks of service.  As he left the courthouse, he stopped in a courthouse lounge where for more than 20 minutes he answered questions from the plaintiffs and lawyers and employees of Fox.  


DISMISSED ALTERNATE SPEAKS OUT
Alternate juror Bruce Gold (left) speaks to litigants and the press after being released by the  judge
        As the deliber-
were getting underway one floor above, Gold told the group he was 80% certain he would have voted against the fired reporters, saying they failed to make their case to his satisfaction.
        Speaking directly to Wilson, Gold told him he thought the fired
reporter himself by acting as his own lawyer in the case.
        The jury never heard the judge commend Wilson several times for his presentation, including his closing argument to the jury which judge Steinberg called "very persuasive."
        During the jury selection process, Gold said he had represented himself in a civil suit in Chicago years ago and had come to the conclusion that anyone who represented himself had a fool for a client.  For strategic reasons and because he was chosen as the second alternate, Wilson and Akre's lawyers nonetheless decided not to challenge his presence on the jury.  (He became the only alternate when an original member of the jury dropped out for health reasons and the first alternate joined the panel.)
        Gold said he thought the reporters could have been more cooperative with their bosses and he was not fully convinced the station wanted the journalists to lie or distort the news.  He said he would have made a final decision on that after looking more closely at the evidence, including the final two scripts the reporters turned in.
        The computer programmer said he believes "the boss is the boss" and cited an example of some computer work he did the other day for a client.  He said he told the client there was better way to write the program but the client said they wanted it done the way they ordered it.  "He is the boss," Gold said, "and so I do it the way he wants."
        He also said he suspected he was the plaintiffs' strongest supporter and would be surprised if the jury returned a verdict for either one of the fired journalists.  Fox lawyers and WTVT News V-P Phil Metlin beamed as Wilson shook hands and thanked the juror for his service.

Never Count Your Chickens...

VICTORY NEVER CAME
Fox Atty Roberts grins as News V-P Metlin flashes premature "V" for victory
         As the jury deliberated, Fox lawyers sat nervously if not smugly in Courtroom 1 doing what they never expected to do--wait for a jury to decide whether their clients, the station management at Tampa's Fox 13, violated the law and the public trust.
        After staying away for most of the trial, apparently fearing he would be served with a subpoena to testify for the plaintiffs, Fox L-A counsel
Gary  Roberts joined in the vigil.
        "I have a feeling it's going to be a long wait for a case that was never going to get to trial," Wilson told Roberts as they both waited in the courtroom. 
        The reference was to a remark Roberts once uttered to Wilson and Akre not long after the whistleblower case was filed.  At the deposition of Monsanto lawyer John Walsh in New York, Roberts sneered, "This case is never going to get to trial," indicating that Fox money and legal muscle would prove far too much of a mismatch for a couple of fired and unemployed reporters.  
        Roberts claimed he has since been misquoted several times and chastised Wilson,  "That story changes each time you tell it."


THE FINAL SIX -- JURORS IN THE FOX/BGH TRIAL

        Not long after the jurors entered the jury room and closed the door behind them at 10:42 a.m., they asked the bailiff to wheel in a large chalkboard and provide them with a second set of the jury instructions. 
        Shortly before 4 p.m., after they had spent more than five hours in the room together, Judge Steinberg called the parties together and indicated he would like to inquire as to what progress was being made.  The jury was brought into the courtroom and one of the jurors told the judge "We're close."  With that simple remark, the judge sent them back into the room to resume their deliberations. 
        Within about an hour, there was a knock at the door and the jury indicated they had reached a verdict.
        Just before 5 p.m. the jury re-entered the courtroom and tjhe judge asked : "Do you have a verdict?"  Pharmacist John Tagler, the foreman elected by the others, replied, "Yes, Your Honor, we do."
        Two sheets of paper, the verdict form for each plaintiff, was then handed to the judge who reviewed the documents and certified that they had been properly filled out.  He then handed them to the court clerk to read out loud.  Plaintiffs Steve Wilson and Jane Akre, who are married to each other, held hands as the clerk started to read:

What The Jury Decided
        "Do you find that the plaintiff Jane Akre has proven by the greater weight of the evidence that the defendant New World Communications of Tampa through its employees or agents terminated her employment or took other retaliatory personnel action against her because she opposed or refused to participate in the broadcast of a false, distorted or slanted news report which she reasonable believed would violate the prohibition against intentional falsification or distortion of the news on television if it were aired?"
        The jury verdict as to question one:  No.  The courtroom remained tense as the clerk went on to read question number 2:
        "Do you find that the plaintiff Jane Akre has proven, by the greater weight of the evidence, that the defendant, through its employees or agents, terminated her employment or took other retaliatory personnel action against her because she threatened to disclose to the Federal Communications Commission under oath, in writing, the broadcast of a false, distorted, or slanted news report which she reasonably believed would violate the prohibition against intentional falsification or distortion of the news on television, if it were aired?"
        The jury verdict as to question 2:  Yes.
        With one of the first two questions answered in the affirmative, the clerk went on to read the third question before the jury:
        What is the amount of lost wages, if any, lost earning capacity, if any, and damages, if any, sustained by the plaintiff Jane Akre?
        For lost wages:  $88,725
        For lost earning capacity:  $120,750
        For other damages:  $215,525
        The clerk then proceeded to read the same questions as to the jury's findings with regard to plaintiff Wilson's claim, reporting that the jury voted "No" to both questions and therefore awarded him nothing. 
        "I learned it is extremely difficult if not impossible to be both a strong and aggressive advocate for yourself in the courtroom and a victim at the same time, "Wilson told reporters after the jury was dismissed. 
        The more aggressively Wilson interrogated hostile Fox witnesses to bring out the truth in front of the jury, the more he seemed to confirm the Fox claim that he was a difficult employee, the reason station officials claimed they chose not to renew his contract for a second year.  
        Although the reporter's questions drew admissions and responses that shocked and surprised even the Fox defense attorneys at times, they sometimes led to bitter confrontations in the courtroom.  At one point, Fox attorney Greg Jones screamed at Wilson, "You're the biggest liar I've ever known!"  He was admonished by the judge and repeatedly had to be told to answer Wilson's questions responsively.
        "The jury was told they must determine whether I was fired because I objected or refused to participate in the production of a slanted story. ," Wilson explained.  In fact, the exact instruction to the jury was 'if you determine that this was the reason for the termination, then your verdict shall be for the plaintiff'.
        "The problem was the jury had no option to find that the slanted news report was a compelling reason, or a substantial reason, or even just one of the reasons," Wilson said.  "With those instructions, it had to be the reason.  And once I admitted to being difficult in the face of my bosses telling me to lie on the air, I think the jurors decided my intransigence certainly could have also been another reason they wanted to get rid of me.
        "Jane and I were a team.  We were working on the same story.  This jury has now decided that what Jane threatened to disclose to the FCC was a false, distorted and slanted news report," Wilson added.
        "That is a stain that no amount of spin from $650-an-hour Washington lawyers who specialize in telling you what the definition of "is" is can never take away.  No appeal can ever remove it, either.  And neither can any amount of lying about, as WTVT has resorted to doing on its own newscasts," he said.
         "Jane and I have a lot of respect for many of the fine people who work there.  They need to take a look at Friday night's 6 p.m. news transcript and then look  how the spin changed in the 10 p.m. news transcript...and compare that to what the jury said on the verdict form itself.  the transcript of what what their own station reported at 6 p.m.  [CLICK HERE to see Fox distortions at 10 p.m. noted in red]   

        Outside the court-
house after the verdict, Akre lawyers John Chamblee and Tom Johnson told reporters the verdict was a landmark victory for all journalists in Florida.
        It is the first time the state whistleblower law has been successfully used to protect a journalist who is 

TOM JOHNSON & JOHN CHAMBLEE
WOULD PRESIDENT CLINTON BE BETTER OFF WITH THESE LAWYERS ON HIS SIDE?
fired for refusing to slant the news.  
        "This is for you," Chamblee told reporters, including a woman hired to report the story for WTVT.  "This is for everyone in this state who calls himself or herself a journalist and for any of them who may ever end up in a terrible situation like this."   

 

Stories Posted Recently:

GUEST EDITORIAL:  WAKE UP, YOU WATCHDOGS

TRIAL COVERAGE:  STARTLING ADMISSIONS FROM FOX V-P WHO FIRED WILSON/AKRE

TRIAL COVERAGE:  INSANITY DEFENSE FOR FOX?

TRIAL COVERAGE:  SECOND WEEK BEGINS

TRIAL COVERAGE:  WEEK ONE ENDS WITH BANG

TRIAL COVERAGE:  DAYS THREE AND FOUR

TRIAL COVERAGE:  DAY TWO

TRIAL COVERAGE:  DAY ONE


JUSTICE FOR SALE AT THE COURTHOUSE?

FOX AIRS ANOTHER DISTORTED STORY ON rBGH

TRIAL DELAYED; NEW JUDGE TO BE CHOSEN

FOX MGR WHO FIRED JOURNOS GETS PROMOTED TO FOX'S SECOND-BIGGEST STATION

TRIAL TO START SOON, LATE JUNE/EARLY JULY

TRIAL DELAYED AGAIN WILL NOT START 6/12

FOX STALLS ON TESTIMONY OF ITS PRESIDENT

RALPH NADER TESTIFIES RE PUBLIC INTEREST

MEDIATION IS BRIEF AND UNSUCCESSFUL

FOX CHALLENGES PLAINTIFFS' rBGH EXPERTS

CRONKITE TESTIFIES FOR AKRE & WILSON 


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