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Jury selection to begin in Dominion’s $1.6 billion Fox News lawsuit in Delaware

Jury selection in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox Corp is due to begin on Thursday, as the court seeks 12 Delaware residents from a heavily Democratic county to decide whether Fox News knowingly aired false claims about vote rigging in the 2020 US presidential election.

Dominion says Fox destroyed its business by knowingly airing debunked claims that its ballot counting machines were used to flip the results of the election against former president Donald Trump, a Republican who lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

The primary question for jurors will be whether Fox knowingly spread false information or recklessly disregarded the truth, the standard of “actual malice” Dominion must show to prevail.

Fox has argued in legal filings that Dominion’s $US1.6 billion ($2.4 billion) damages request is “untethered from reality” and designed to enrich the company’s investors.

The trial is widely viewed as a test of whether Fox’s coverage crossed the line between ethical journalism and the pursuit of ratings, as Dominion alleges and Fox denies.

Opening arguments in the five-week trial are expected to begin on Monday.

The jury pool will be drawn from New Castle County, Delaware, where Democrats outnumber members of Mr Trump’s Republican party more than two to one, according to the state’s Department of Elections.

Democratic President Joe Biden represented Delaware in the US Senate from 1973 until 2009.

Fox News and its conservative commentators were generally supportive of Mr Trump during his presidency.

America’s political composition is likely to “make the defence nervous, but left-leaning people also tend to be in favour of freedom of the press,” said Melissa Gomez, president of MMG Jury Consulting.

In Delaware, lawyers are not allowed to speak directly with potential jurors. Instead, Superior Court Judge Eric Davis – who is presiding over the case – will question them behind closed doors, using questions both sides have agreed to, including whether potential jurors have ever “worked in a newsroom” and whether “they regularly watch any Fox News programs”.

If a prospective juror responds “yes,” Judge Davis may ask follow-up questions.

After the judge identifies 36 potential jurors, they will be brought to the court room and each side’s lawyers will have six “peremptory strikes,” in which they can dismiss a potential juror without giving a reason for doing so.

The streamlined process allows for jury selection to happen more quickly than it does in some other states: Judge Davis has allotted two days.

Judge Davis on Wednesday sanctioned Fox News, handing Dominion a fresh chance to gather evidence after Fox withheld records until the eve of trial, according to a source who is familiar with the case and was present during Wednesday’s court hearing.

Judge Davis said he would also very likely tap an outside investigator to probe Fox’s late disclosure of the evidence and take whatever steps necessary to remedy the situation, which he described as troubling, the source said.

-Reuters

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