Arthur Kent defamation trial jury dismissed after 'inflammatory' opening remarks
Judge dismissed jury, saying war correspondent's lawyer made prejudicial opening remarks
A defamation trial involving veteran war correspondent Arthur Kent and Canada's largest newspaper chain is proceeding by judge alone after the jury was dismissed, with the judge citing "inflammatory" and prejudicial remarks made by Kent's lawyer.
Kent — who was nicknamed the "Scud Stud" for his reporting for an American network during the Persian Gulf War — has waged a prolonged lawsuit against Postmedia Network among others over an article written during his bid for a seat as a Progressive Conservative in the 2008 Alberta election.
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Then-National Post columnist Don Martin wrote an article about Kent's campaign in the riding of Calgary-Currie. In the column, he referred to Kent as the "Scud Dud."
Some of the comments were inflammatory and, in my view, they are sufficiently serious and damaging that they cannot be satisfactorily addressed with a corrective instruction to the jury.- Judge Jo'Anne Strekaf, in dismissing jury
Kent's statements of claim say he was described in the column as having an oversized ego and an unorganized and incompetent campaign. Kent claimed that article injured his reputation, character and credibility.
The lawsuit finally headed to court Monday.
However, the Postmedia lawyers objected to opening statements from Kent's lawyer, Kent Jesse, to the jury on Monday.
"Not only did the defendants publish an article that was unfair, hurtful … but they did so with malicious intent," Jesse told the jury.
"Because Don Martin wrote the article with the intent to harm Arthur Kent's reputation, he acted with malice."
As soon as he finished his opening statement, lawyers for Postmedia argued for a mistrial.
They said Jesse "impugned" Martin's reputation by stating it as facts that Martin had written the column maliciously and that Postmedia had known it was inaccurate. Jesse should have presented the comments as allegations that he would later try to prove, they argued.
Judge Jo'Anne Strekaf agreed Tuesday morning and dismissed the jury, deciding it was not possible to correct the potential damage done.
"Some of the comments were inflammatory and, in my view, they are sufficiently serious and damaging that they cannot be satisfactorily addressed with a corrective instruction to the jury," said Strekaf in her decision.
The trial continued before Strekaf on Tuesday afternoon after defence lawyers agreed to Kent's proposal to proceed by judge alone.