Comedian Roseanne Barr shouldn’t have to pay damages to the parents of George Zimmerman, even though she posted their address on Twitter, because what she wrote was true and newsworthy, she claims in new court paperwork, the Orlando Sentinel said.
Zimmerman is a former neighborhood watch volunteer acquitted in a fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager in 2013. The case polarized the American public and drew international attention.
Last month, a judge refused to dismiss the Zimmermans’ lawsuit against her, so last week her lawyers filed new paperwork. This time, they put forward a dozen reasons why Circuit Judge Melanie Chase should throw it out. Some are the same ones used by news organizations when they’re sued for defamation, the report said.
The facts she tweeted “are constitutionally protected, ” wrote her lawyer Hal Litchford of Orlando, “because they are truthful, newsworthy.” He said they also involved public figures, namely Zimmerman’s parents, Robert Zimmerman Sr. and Gladys Zimmerman, a retired couple in Lake Mary, the Sentinel said.
And Barr did not tweet private facts, Litchford argued. She posted pieces of information that were easily accessible through Seminole County property records and the phone book. Her tweets also didn’t cause any “cognizable damages, ” Litchford wrote, according to the report.
That is not what the Zimmermans allege in their suit, filed March 10. They accuse Barr of trying to incite a “lynch mob” and forcing them to move out in the middle of the night and live in hiding for months, the Sentinel said.
She posted the tweet on March 29, 2012. Robert Zimmerman Sr. told the Orlando Sentinel two weeks earlier that his family was already living in hiding.
Barr’s tweet came a month after George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old, in Sanford. A Seminole County jury acquitted him of second-degree murder the following year, the report said.
Barr has said she intended the tweet to go to just one person and that she took it down moments later, once she realized it went to everyone following her on Twitter.
The Zimmermans have offered to settle for $750, 000, according to court records. A federal magistrate in June ruled that their case did not meet the federal case minimum of $75, 000 in damages, so he transferred it back to state circuit court in Sanford, the report said.