Up next was “Peter O’Donnell” a.k.a. Roger Smith, who was representing himself. Mr. Smith attempted in his best non-lawyer fashion to craft an opening statement which was constantly interrupted by the judge who pointed out that Mr. Smith should not be testifying, but rather to give an opening statement. Mr. Smith explained a bit about who he was, and when he got involved in political discussions on the Internet. Mr. Smith stated that “freedominion satisfies a need in the opinion marketplace of ideas” and is not an “extreme right wing website”. In reference to the allegedly defamatory posting, Mr. Smith stated that “5... maybe 6 people read the impugned words”.
Roger Smith summed up his views on the trial in 6 concise words “this entire process is a travesty!” When the judge asked about his posting, Mr. Smith answered “political opinions should not be adjudicated in courts”
- Heated political debate on the internet should be factored into the test of a “reasonable person” with respect to the context of the overall debate
- Context of the meaning of the words is critical.
- Administrators and blog operators should not be held to a strict liability test under defamation law. And that by holding message board operators (such as Mark and Connie Fournier) to a strict liability test it has a chilling effect on freedom of expression.
- The broader context needs to be looked at for statements of facts vs opinion. And that comments should be looked at in a contextual fashion if they are facts or opinions
- An adequate factual foundation needs to be established in accordance with overall context of the posting. The court should not adjudicate in vacuum. And the court should “not be restricted to the four corners of the case”.