FAYETTEVILLE - Roger Forman thought he had proven his stance to a Fayette Circuit Court jury six weeks ago, but ultimately had to live with the fact that he had not.
Now, he can only hope he proved it to the judge.
Forman and Hugh Roberts, partners on former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlotte Pritt's libel case against three Republican organizations, filed a motion April 8 asking Circuit Judge Paul Blake Jr. to reconsider and/or set aside the March 13 verdict.
A hearing is set for May 31. If Blake sides with Pritt's team, then a new trial could be next.
"Post-trial motions allow the trial judge to have a say on whether the verdict stays and is appropriate," said Forman of the Charleston law firm Forman and Huber. "The Judge can correct any miscarriage of justice that occurred at a trial. The judge is the best person to do that."
Pritt charged that the West Virginia State Victory Commission, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee produced advertisements harmful to the potential income of Pritt during her 1996 campaign against Republican Cecil Underwood, the eventual winner. Charges against the Republican National Committee were dropped by Blake before the jury deliberated.
The ads in question implied Pritt was against honoring war veterans and introducing elementary-schoolers to sex education based on her voting record during her time as a state senator and delegate, Forman said.
Forman believes those ads took the literal meaning of a vote on a certain bill and extended it to an unreachable conclusion concerning Pritt's beliefs.
And he thought that they had proved it against Mike Carey's defense, which had its case based on the information in the ads being comparable to information in voting records.
In Roberts' motion, he lists several reasons he feels the verdict should be examined. He says the verdict "confounds reason, shocks the conscience and escapes explanation."
Regarding witnesses, he summarizes the testimony in support of his case and their credibility.
Regarding the trial's structure, he wrote that separating it into two separate trials, one regarding liability and the other regarding damages, may have had an effect on the jury's decision.
Since a "not guilty" verdict would eliminate the need for a damages trial, Roberts wondered if it was "an invitation to a fatigued jury to go home."
The motion goes on to quote the defense's closing statement with regard to bifurcation:
"Finally, a defense verdict in this case, as you know, is - would mean that my clients do not have liability for these ads, and there would not need to be - you would not need to return for a damages case.
"So I am hoping - although I've enjoyed appearing before you for the last week or so, I am hoping that your verdict is for the defense and that - and that having cast your verdict for the defense, that you - that I do not have to appear before you again on the damages phase."
Forman is hoping any of the issues stuck with the Judge Blake.
"I have no doubt in my mind that it's a lie to say Charlotte Pritt said she proposed teaching first-graders about condoms," he said. "It's just a bold-faced lie. I can't understand how the jury returned a verdict in favor of that.
"Our motion addresses it. We'll see what the other side submits, then we may have a response to it.
"I don't think we ever see it the way they do."
Fayette Circuit Court case number 07-C-380(B)
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