WATERBURY (US), Oct 8 — A Connecticut jury yesterday ended its first full day of deliberations without a decision on how much conspiracy theorist Alex Jones must pay families of victims for falsely claiming the Sandy Hook mass shooting in 2012 was a hoax.
Deliberations will resume on Tuesday in Waterbury, Connecticut state court, not far from where a gunman killed 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. Jones claimed for years that the massacre was staged with actors by the government as part of a plot to seize Americans’ guns.
Jones has already been found liable in the case, which concerns only how much he must pay in damages to the 15 plaintiffs.
In August, another jury found that Jones and his company must pay US$49.3 million (RM228.6 million) to Sandy Hook parents in a similar case in Austin, Texas, where the headquarters of Jones’ Infowars website is located.
Lawyers for the families of eight Sandy Hook victims in closing arguments on Thursday said Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems LLC, cashed in for years on lies about the shooting, which drove traffic to his Infowars website and sales of products there.
Meanwhile, the victims’ families suffered a decade-long campaign of harassment and death threats by Jones’ followers, plaintiffs’ attorney Chris Mattei told jurors.
“Every single one of these families (was) drowning in grief, and Alex Jones put his foot right on top of them,” Mattei said.
Jones’ lawyer Norman Pattis countered during his closing argument that the plaintiffs had shown scant evidence of quantifiable losses. Pattis urged jurors to ignore the political undercurrents in the case.
“This is not a case about politics, I remind you that,” he said. “It’s about how much to compensate the plaintiffs.”
The trial was marked by weeks of anguished testimony from the families, who filled the gallery each day and took turns recounting how Jones’ lies about Sandy Hook compounded their grief. An FBI agent who responded to the shooting is also a plaintiff in the case.
Jones, who has since acknowledged that the shooting occurred, also testified and briefly threw the trial into chaos as he railed against his “liberal” critics and refused to apologise to the families.
Jones’ lawyers have said that they hope to void most of the payout in the Texas case before it is approved by a judge, calling it excessive under state law.
Connecticut does not impose the same caps on damages as Texas. — Reuters