William Janklow versus Newsweek, Inc


WilliamJanklow versus Newsweek, Inc

WilliamJanklow versus Newsweek, Inc

WilliamJanklow, a former South Dakota governor, filed a case againstNewsweek Magazine on allegation that it published a defamationarticle on February 21, 1983. The article titled Denis Banks’ LastStand claimed that Janklow initiated Bank’s prosecution in 1974, asretaliation on the latter’s report to the tribal court. Bank was anIndian-American activist, and he claimed that the plaintiff hadallegedly raped a fifteen-year-old girl in 1969. The said girl wasworking as his babysitter. Banks fled SD in mid-1970s after Janklowsuccessfully convicted him of two felonies when he was a governor.Although Banks succeeded to convince Rosebud Sioux chiefs to summonJanklow on the supposed rape, the accused failed to honor the call.Besides, he successfully contested for the governor seat and won. Asa governor, the plaintiff attempted to extradite Banks so that hecould face trial over his previous felonies. The Newsweek Magazinereported that the complainant “probably” started prosecutingBanks after becoming governor to revenge on the defendant’s effortto have a tribal court prosecute Janklow over the supposed rapecrime. The court`s verdict favored the magazine because the assertionthat the plaintiff sought Banks’ extradition and prosecution torevenge the humiliation of the rape allegation was an opiniontherefore, the First Amendment protected it (United States Court ofAppeal, 1986).


Newsweekmagazine did not defame governor Janklow by asserting that he wantedto initiate Banks’ prosecution as retaliation to the defendant’saction of convincing the tribal court to charge the plaintiff forallegedly raping his baby sitter in 1969 as this was a fact. Janklowfailed to pursue Banks’ case when he was an attorney general, butinitiated it after becoming a governor to revenge the defendant’saction (United States Court of Appeal, 1986).

Besides,the court ruled that the article did not espouse that the newspaperbelieved the allegations made against the governor. Regarding thearticles assertion that the governor intended to prosecute Banks forunconstitutional personal motivation, the District Court ruled thatit was an opinion, which cannot be deemed a libel (United StatesCourt of Appeal, 1986).


Janklow’sappeal argued that the court was making an error under the SouthDakota laws to inquire from the jury if the article was defamatorywhile it was vulnerable to communicate defamatory information. Hecited LauderbackV. American Broadcasting Co.(1984) case that held that First Amendment does not protect“statementsdressed as opinion which imply that they are based on undisclosed,defamatory facts”. The case also concluded that the author should not publish falsefacts to support a defamatory, or fail to publish critical facts thatcould significantly change a regular reader’s opinion. Theplaintiff claimed that Newsweek’s article was defamatory in threedistinct ways. First, it had omitted or falsely reported thebackground of the rape allegation, an act that was likely to misleadthe perception of regular readers. Second, the article espoused thathe had committed the rape thereby, using false facts to justify anopinion. Lastly, the article asserted that Janklow was prompted byimpermissible personal reasons to prosecute Banks. This was amisrepresentation of facts since he had begun the prosecution in 1973while Banks had initiated charges against him in 1974. This meansthat Newsweek was publishing critical facts intended to mislead thepublic hence, the case could go into trial (United States Court ofAppeal, 1986).


Theplaintiff disputed the main facts Newsweek outlined. For example, Therape allegation occurred in 1967 instead of 1969 he was a guardianto the supposedly raped girl, but she never baby-sat for hischildren Judges ran the Rosebud Sioux Court instead of chiefs hehad never been joined the tribal court bar the tribal court neverprosecuted him for assault charges as it never handled the case hewas never summoned by the tribal court and the case could not bereopened using the Indian regulations as the court had not handled itin previously. The plaintiff also claimed the Newsweek subjected himto defamation because the federal dismissed the case after conductingits investigation, he passed a lie test, and the victim’s medicaltest showed she was not raped (United States Court of Appeal, 1986).

Accordingto the LauderbackV. American Broadcasting Co. (1984)case, which ruled that defamation rapped as opinion is not subject toprotection by the first amendment, the plaintiff argued that Newsweekmagazine should compensate him for the damages (United States Courtof Appeal, 1986).

Besides,he used Ciancivs. New Times Publishing Co. (1980)Case, which ruled that the defendant is guilty of defamation if he orshe changes the chronology of events that could lead to a conclusion.Similarly, the Newsweek article alleged that Janklow begunprosecuting Banks in 1974 to avenge the revival of the 1969 allegedrape while the prosecution had started in 1973 (United States Courtof Appeal, 1986).

Inthe current case, the court should have let Janklow prevail as he hadsuccessfully illustrated that Newsweek made unprivileged and falsestatements with obligatory fault.


TheCourt of Appeal used the Brownvs. Herald Co., Inc (1983),which states that a plaintiff requires strong evidence to show thatgiven information was published with deliberate malice for it to beprosecutable. The Court also used The New York Times v. Sullivan(1964) case, which had ruled that public officials that have beeninjured by publications could not seek justice from the judiciary,unless they could prove that, the content was not true, and it waspublished either intention of deliberately frustrating or causingharm to the complainant. The Appeal court, thereby, concluded thathad not erred in its initial verdict (United States Court of Appeal,1986).


UnitedStates Court of Appeal (8thCircuit, 1986). WilliamJanklow versus Newsweek,Inc. No. 54- 1452.