Jesse Ventura Says Trial in Texas Would Be Unfair

     (CN) – Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura said it might taint the jury pool to move his defamation claims against the widow of famed Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle.
     Ventura sued Chris Kyle in 2012 after the release of Kyle’s autobiography, “American Sniper.” The book described a confrontation between the men in San Diego at a wake for a SEAL that was killed in action.
     “Among other things, Chris Kyle alleged that Governor Ventura said he hates America, SEALs are murdering innocent people, and that SEALs deserve to die – statements which, according to Chris Kyle, ultimately caused him to punch Governor Ventura in the face, giving him a black eye,” Ventura alleged. “Governor Ventura sued Chris Kyle for defamation because the incident is a complete and total fabrication and, by concocting and publishing the story, Chris Kyle viciously and deliberately attacked Governor Ventura’s character, honor, and reputation.”
     The federal complaint is set for a May trial in Minneapolis.
     Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield were allegedly shot and killed by veteran Marine Marine Eddie Ray Routh earlier this year at a firing range in Erath County, Texas. Ventura has since pursued the case against Kyle’s estate through his widow, Taya Kyle, of Midlothian, Texas.
     Taya Kyle asked the court to transfer venue to Dallas in August, citing the challenges of being a single parent and managing her late husband’s affairs.
     “She is preparing for the murder trial of her husband’s suspected killer, all while attempting to process her own grief (and helping her children process theirs),” according to her memorandum in support of a motion to transfer venue. “These formidable challenges likely will endure for some time. Trial in this case will probably take two, or even three, weeks. As the newly named defendant, Taya Kyle should attend the entire trial. However, it would be a significant burden and inconvenience for Taya Kyle to travel to and stay in Minnesota for that length of time. Among other reasons, her two children need the comfort and stability provided by their mother’s regular presence.”
     By continuing the lawsuit against her, “Ventura’s stated purpose of restoring his reputation, because the lawsuit itself at this point conveys the message that Ventura has little or no regard for the feelings of mourning family members of deceased veterans,” the widow added.
     She said a trial in Dallas would not inconvenience Ventura since spends his winters in Mexico. Kyle also argued that Texas is much more convenient a location for witnesses that will be called, two of whom live in the state.
     Ventura disagreed in a Sept 3. memorandum in opposition to the motion to transfer venue.
     He said the move “would serve only to shift the inconvenience to Governor Ventura, and to make available a jury pool that would likely be biased in favor of ‘hometown hero’ Chris Kyle.”
     The request serves the media better than the court, Ventura claimed, adding that the motion is part of the defense’s “continuing strategy to publicly disparage Governor Ventura and influence the court of public opinion” with “unnecessarily vitriolic comments and personal attacks” against him regarding his regard for the families of deceased veterans.
     “The estate’s lawyers, and Taya Kyle herself in media interviews, have repeatedly tried to portray Governor Ventura as doggedly pursuing his claim against a ‘widow’ and, by doing so, intending to take from her money needed to raise her children,” the memorandum in opposition states. “But in their appeals for public sympathy, the estate’s lawyers and Taya Kyle have consistently avoided or downplayed the fact that the publisher’s insurance company [HarperCollins Publishers] has been footing the bill for defense costs, and will likely end up paying for any damages awarded.”
     Ventura claims many potential jurors in Dallas may be biased against him out of their love and respect for Chris Kyle. He cites a memorial service held for Chris Kyle at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, where his casket was placed on the Dallas Cowboys’ blue star at midfield.
     “Nearly 7,000 people attended the service,” according to the memorandum in opposition. “On the following day he was buried at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, Texas, after a 200-mile funeral procession. Texans lined the roadways and highway overpasses to pay their respects to Chris Kyle as the procession carried him to Austin with news agencies reporting that they ‘did not see a single empty overpass’ along the way.”
     Ventura also pointed out that the Texas House unanimously passed the “Chris Kyle Bill” after the Seal’s death to rename a 7-mile stretch of North Central Expressway in Dallas the “Chris Kyle Expressway.”
     “Governor Ventura is not in any way discounting the mourning and loss felt by those who knew or respected Chris Kyle,” the memorandum in opposition states. “But it is simply not credible for the estate to argue that Governor Ventura would receive as fair a trial in Texas as he would in Minnesota, given the visceral emotions Chris Kyle evokes in so many Texans, particularly in the Dallas area.”
     Ventura also argued Taya Kyle cannot claim inconvenience because she voluntarily injected herself into the lawsuit by accepting appointment as her husband’s executrix.
     “She could, of course, have avoided any obligation to appear or to testify at trial by declining the appointment, and letting a relative, a lawyer, an accountant, a bank trust officer, or a friend serve as executor,” the memorandum in opposition states.

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