Rolling Stone Defamation Trial: Jury Selected

Posted: Updated: Oct 18, 2016 09:35 AM
Jury box inside a federal courtroom in Charlottesville Jury box inside a federal courtroom in Charlottesville

The multimillion dollar lawsuit against Rolling Stone magazine is now underway in a Charlottesville federal courtroom.

A total of eight women and two men have been selected to serve as the jury.

Jury selection began at around 9:30 a.m. Monday, October 17. About 100 people were selected for the potential jury pool, and much of the day was spent on narrowing that down to 10 jurors for the trial. The jury were seated around 3:45 p.m.

Lawyers on both sides of the case interviewed potential jurors, focusing on the media attention given to the now-retracted article on rape at the University of Virginia.

"We succeeded in choosing what I believe to be a fair and impartial jury out of a very large panel in an environment which is steeped in this environment and this case, so that's a huge relief in and of itself," Scott Sexton, an attorney for Rolling Stone magazine, Wenner Media, and article author Sabrina Rubin Erdely said.

Rolling Stone Magazine published "A Rape on Campus" by Erdely in its November 2014 issue. In the article, a student referred to as "Jackie" described being gang raped at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at UVA in September of 2012.

A Charlottesville police investigation in 2015 found no evidence to back up the claims. Details in the lengthy article did not hold up under scrutiny by other media organizations. The magazine retracted and apologized for the article.

Nicole Eramo, a former UVA associate dean of students, brought a defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone Magazine, its publisher, and Erdely because she claims the article unfairly targeted her. She says the article portrayed her as indifferent to Jackie's plight and only interested in protecting the university's reputation. Eramo is seeking $7.5 million in damages.

On Friday, a "20/20" special report titled “What Happened to Jackie?” featured interviews with key players in the case and a deposition tape of Erdely. Legal expert David Heilberg says the program could sway people in the 11th hour.

"They'll ask a lot of general media questions, because there's been a lot of media coverage everywhere. But they will definitely focus on the "20/20" story so that the defense can get everybody off the jury that seemed to be aware of it in an unfair way," Heilberg said.

Only eight or nine people out of the entire pool said they had no prior knowledge of the case at all. Four potential jurors said they had a bias due to the media, while 14 said they believe Erdely and Rolling Stone Magazine did something wrong. More than 30 potential jurors said they don't trust the media at all.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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