Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

High Court Upholds Decision against National Enquirer Tabloid Faces Trial for Story on Eddie Murphy

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

High Court Upholds Decision against National Enquirer Tabloid Faces Trial for Story on Eddie Murphy

Article excerpt

The National Enquirer faces a trial over its story about actor Eddie Murphy's illegitimate son and the boy's mother because the Supreme Court refused to kill an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit Monday.

The court let stand rulings that said a California jury should decide whether the tabloid newspaper's report - its accuracy unchallenged - was "newsworthy" and therefore legally unassailable.

The Enquirer's invasion-of-privacy troubles began when it reported in September 1992 that Murphy and Tamara Hood had a 2-year-old son named Christian Edward Murphy, and that the film star had accepted financial responsibility for the child.

The newspaper reported that Murphy had bought a $376,000 house for the boy and his mother, established a million-dollar trust for the child and initially sent Hood child-support payments of $2,000 monthly.

Murphy never challenged the Enquirer article. But Hood sued.

A state judge threw out her invasion-of-privacy claim, ruling that the Enquirer had a free-speech and free-press right to publish the truthful story.

But a California appeals court reversed part of the judge's ruling and reinstated part of Hood's lawsuit.

The appeals court suggested the article might not have been so offensive had it been less specific, saying: "While the facts of (Murphy's financial) support may be newsworthy, the financial details may not."

Under California privacy law, a publication that is truthful can be found to violate privacy rights if it includes facts that are private, offensive and not newsworthy.

In the appeal acted on Monday, lawyers for the newspaper said the state court rulings "ignore the long-recognized rule that neither courts nor juries may constitutionally act as surrogate editors-in-chief, substituting their own post-publication judgments on how a story should have been written."

The high court's action, taken without comment, was not a ruling on the merits and does not bar the justices from some day siding with the Enquirer. …

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