Texas High Court upholds headline libel rules

by   |  09.22.05  |  Current Events

I’m behind the curve here, but the Texas Supreme Court on Sept. 2 refused to rehear a libel case in which The Brownsville Herald was accused of libel in a headline. In a story about a political debate days before the 2000 election, the Herald ran the headline:

Cantu: No Anglo can be sheriff of Cameron County
Election 2000 : Dem candidate stresses Hispanic heritage at debate

Cantu objected and sued for libel. The SCOTex ruled this summer that no evidence of actual malice existed and cited Time v. Pape in its decision:

“Any departure from full direct quotation of the words of the source, with all its qualifying language, inevitably confronts the publisher with a set of choices.” Since the founding of the nation, political candidates have complained that those choices sometimes appear to adopt the most unflattering and controversial interpretation possible. But nothing in the Constitution requires the press to adopt favorable attitudes toward public figures.

A few weeks after striking out at the state supreme court, Cantu in July pleaded guilty to federal charges of drug trafficking, extortion and witness tampering. He also had faced obstruction, money laundering and conspiracy counts, but prosecutors dismissed those as part of the plea agreement. Sentencing is scheduled for September 27th. He faces from ten years to life in prison.

The libel case is Freedom Newspapers of Texas v. Conrado Cantu.