After hearing seven days of evidence and a range of witnesses, jurors have begun deliberations to determine how much money InfoWars host Alex Jones must pay to the parents of 6-year-old Sandy Hook shooting victim Jesse Lewis for his campaign to portray the school attack as a hoax.
The matter was handed to jurors late Wednesday afternoon, and state District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble said she doubted they would get beyond selecting a foreperson and reading the jury charge before the courthouse closed at 5 p.m.
The real work begins today.
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis have asked jurors for $150 million in compensation for actual damages, saying Jones portrayal of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting as a hoax meant to justify a government crackdown on guns — and parents as liars or collaborators — inspired harassment and death threats from Jones followers and made it impossible to heal from the tragedy.
Jones’ lawyer, Andino Reynal, asked jurors to award a total of $8 — $1 for each of the eight harms the court has already found Jones and his main company, Free Speech Systems, to have inflicted on Jesse’s parents.
More:‘My son existed.’ Mother of Sandy Hook shooting victim speaks directly to Alex Jones
At least 10 of the 12 jurors must agree on a verdict. The four alternates, two more than typical due to the pandemic and the length of the two-week trial, were dismissed Thursday.
Before hearing closing arguments Thursday, jurors were informed that Jones and Free Speech Systems defamed Heslin in two 2017 InfoWars reports that questioned his claim that he held his dead son and saw the bullet wound to his head after the shooting. Heslin testified that he made the statement in an NBC interview in hopes of stopping Jones’ campaign and protect the legacy of his son, who died a hero by yelling “Run!” when the gunman paused. Nine students fled; Jesse did not.
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Jurors are to determine the amount of money that would fairly compensate Heslin for past and future damage to his reputation and past and future mental anguish caused by the defamatory reports.
Jurors also were told that Jones and his company inflicted intentional emotional distress on Heslin and Lewis by repeatedly portraying the Sandy Hook shooting as a hoax from 2012 to 2018, when they filed suit. Each parent can be compensated for past and future mental anguish.
In his closing arguments, parents lawyer Kyle Farrar reminded jurors that they were asked during jury selection whether they could approve a damages award of $100 million or more. Those who could not were weeded out during the selection process, he said.
“This is your opportunity to hold Alex Jones accountable for the harm he did,” Farrar said.
Reynal said the parents, their expert witnesses and their lawyers failed to prove that they were actually and directly harmed by Jones’ words.
Once jurors make their decisions, they will be asked to award punitive damages that are intended as punishment. First, jurors will hear from the parents’ economic expert on the net worth of Jones and his company. Jones also will testify at that phase, Reynal said.
Jones, speaking to reporters outside the courthouse Thursday evening, was asked if he accepted responsibility for causing pain to Jesse’s family.
“I did not kill their son,” Jones said. “And certainly questioning this big public thing that happened probably did cause them some pain, but it wasn’t intentional. And you can’t differentiate their pain from their son being killed with me questioning things, and the idea that I’m the progenitor that first thought all these anomalies up is simply not true.”
According to InfoWars video played for jurors, on the day of the shooting, Jones questioned whether the attack was a “false flag” operation, saying it had the earmarks of a staged operation.