According to the Variety piece, "in their 456-page complaint and retraction letter to CBS, [Burke's] legal team identify more than 700 statements and instances they say contributed to the “false and defamatory gist” of the two-part TV series . . ." Hopefully the full complaint will be available soon, so we can take a look.
According to the article, one of the first hurdles faced by Wood will be the question of whether or not Burke is a public figure. If he is deemed a public figure by the judge, it will be necessary to prove that the CBS team acted out of malice, which would be extremely difficult, I would imagine. However:
Even so, his lawsuit suggests that they would meet that threshold anyway, by arguing that the defendants knew the claims were false or that they had a reckless disregard for the truth.This matter of "reckless disregard for the truth" interests me, because this was definitely the impression I had while watching the show. I don't think that would be difficult for Wood to establish, because in this case unwarranted assumptions were presented as facts, which strikes me as sufficiently reckless for any judge to find for libel. If, however, it would be necessary to prove beyond doubt that Burke could not possibly have committed this crime, that would be all but impossible, and the judge might well dismiss. That strikes me as unfair, however, because it's unreasonable to expect that anyone could prove his or her innocence in a case like this.
The best Wood could be expected to do would be to prove beyond a doubt that an intruder killed JonBenet. And maybe he believes he can. However, now that the DNA evidence has been put into question, and Lacy's decision to exonerate the Ramseys is being so heavily criticized, he'd have no choice but to fall back on some of Lou Smit's lame theories regarding the basement window, the "Butler door," and the stun gun, which the CBS team was easily able to dismiss.
Especially promising for readers of this blog is the following comment, based on one lawyer's take:
CBS and other defendants are likely to seek an immediate dismissal, but, Sammataro notes, even if they don’t succeed there, they get “to conduct discovery on whether Burke had any involvement in his sister’s death. [CBS] has a prospective path to a treasure trove of information and potentially an informational advantage over its competitors on a story that continues to enthrall the public and garner ratings.”If CBS does decide on the discovery route, which seems likely, they will no doubt share their "treasure trove" with the public, which might give us quite a bit to chew on in future.
Especially intriguing is a final comment by the same legal expert, who reminds us of an important aspect of this, and any, case that often goes overlooked when all the technicalities are being debated:
A jury could frown upon some of the producers tactics. He cites one instance in the documentary: “The staged demonstration of a young boy beating a pig skin is not a ‘jury-friendly’ fact.”As a long time fan of the British drama "Rumpole," I very much appreciate this reminder that, when all is said and done, it's the ladies and gentlemen of the jury who have the last word. If the jury is sufficiently offended at all the dubious assertions, assumptions and manipulations of the so-called "experts," all the legal niceties of the CBS lawyers could get tossed out the window, assuming Lin can summon up enough sympathy for a frail nine year old child, caught up in the madness of a mystery no one has ever been able to solve.