Monday, November 2, 2009

Libel Case Decision

Trenton, NJ.

The Blande family received more bad news from the courts yesterday. Sinclair Blande, father of accused Satin Strangler Destiny Blande, lost his libel lawsuit case against his daughter’s criminal defense attorney, Horace Krouch.

Blande was contesting the use of a character closely resembling Destiny in a fictionalized tale of the Satin Strangler. Krouch had his work cut out for him defending the book with the tongue-in-cheek title If She Did It. The protagonist and femme fatale, Daphne Blain, aka the Satin Strangler, is indistinguishable from Destiny Blande to any reader who hasn’t been hiding under a rock for the last year.

Krouch released three chapters of his book through his website, KrouchMurderDefense, and is now planning a nationwide marketing blitz during the release of the full print version in December.

It is obvious in even a cursory review of the first few pages of the book that the resemblance to Destiny is intentional, but proof of libel is another issue. The task at hand for her father was to prove that the book depicted statements of fact or mixed statements of fact and opinion, and that those statements were false. Common defenses in libel cases include proving that the statements reflected actual facts about the plaintiff, or that the statements made were intended to reflect a plausible opinion of the defendant.

Krouch legally represented himself in the case, stating that there were no other attorneys that he trusted more than himself. He was expected to make an argument that the lead character, Daphne Blain, was in no way meant to represent Destiny Blande. That was indeed where the defense started. When the plaintiff’s attorney began reading passages from the book, however, the projected outcome became dismal for Krouch. In an unusual twist, he converted mid-case to a secondary strategy, challenging the plaintiff’s attorneys to prove that Destiny Blande was not the Satin Strangler.

The burden of proof was inverted as the plaintiff’s attorneys struggled to document that the book’s statements about Blain, which they originally contended were about Blande, were actually false. In the statements of the jury and judge, this is where Blande’s attorneys were deficient. Unable to disprove that Destiny was the Satin Strangler, they lost the case. Krouch’s back-up strategy worked, primarily because few people other than the 12 jurors he persuaded in the criminal case actually think that Blande is innocent of the Satin Strangler crimes.

While this common law trial went Krouch’s way, it raises some concerns. If Krouch is felt to have released truthful information about Blande into print, then he is protected from allegations of libel. More importantly, however, he might actually be in breach of lawyer-client confidentiality, placing him at risk for disbarment.

“I have done nothing wrong,” Krouch told reporters after the case. “If you doubt that, then read the book and decide,” he added with a wink.

We have certainly not heard the end of the controversial book, If She Did It, which is scheduled to be released in hard copy next month. Krouch’s book has already sold 1.2 million copies through Amazon, only 400,000 shy of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pre-sales.

We have probably not heard the end of the legal battles surrounding the book. “I am not finished yet,” was Sinclair Blande’s only comment following the court’s decision.

We will see what the dirt is on a possible appeal on this one and watch this story for you.


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