Dixie Chicks Libel Lawsuit Dismissed
The lawsuit against the Dixie Chicks, filed by the stepfather of one of three 8-year-old boys killed in Arkansas 15 years ago, has been thrown out. According to the Associated Press, a federal judge ruled that a statement the Chicks' lead singer Natalie Maines made in regard to the deaths noted in legal documents were believed to be true at the time that she made them.
Terry Hobbs, whose stepson Stevie Branch was one of the three boys slain in 1993, sued the band, claiming Natalie accused him of the killings in a letter posted on the Chicks' website and in comments she made at a Little Rock rally in 2007 in support of the three men convicted in the deaths.
After watching documentaries on the case, Natalie became convinced that Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelly -- known as the West Memphis Three -- were innocent of the killings. Natalie wrote a letter seeking donations for the trio's legal defense fund which stated: "I am confident that you will see the DNA evidence is irrefutable and that these three men did not get the kind of trial that is promised to us -- as Americans."
After the trial, Damien was given the death sentence, while Jason and Jessie were given life in prison. Their appeals for a new trial have been repeatedly rejected.
The lawsuit, filed in November of last year, claimed Natalie's comments were "malicious, libelous, slanderous and false" and sought damages. However, U.S. District Judge Brian Miller ruled Tuesday that Hobbs couldn't establish "actual malice" -- that Natalie knew the statements were false or that she made them with "reckless disregard" of the truth.
In an e-mail to her manager, included in the court record, Natalie wrote: "All of the legal stuff is copied directly from the court filing and legal papers that were written by the defense team. I don't want to put any of that in my own words."
Natalie's attorney did not immediately return a call for comment to the Associated Press.