The Supreme Court Monday rejected a pro-life group’s appeal to overturn a multimillion-dollar verdict against them for using “wanted” posters to identify abortion clinic doctors.
Reconvening after its summer recess, the court refused to consider the appeal sought by the American Coalition of Life Activists.
In 1995, a group of doctors and abortion clinics sued them after posters published in Life Advocate magazine offered a $5,000 reward for the “arrest, conviction and revocation of license to practice medicine” of a dozen doctors.
One poster offered a reward for persuading Dr. Robert Crist “to turn from his child killing.” It listed his name, address and photo.
A Web site operated by the activists called the “Nuremberg Files” accused the doctors of crimes against humanity and gave their addresses and phone numbers.
A jury awarded the clinics and doctors $100 million in 1999 after deciding the activists violated racketeering laws and a 1994 federal law that forbids violence against abortion doctors. Courts reduced the jury award to about $16 million.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled the group could be liable for damages because its Web site made threats that were not protected by the First Amendment.
The high court Monday also refused to consider a death penalty appeal by a man who said a jury was improperly influenced by a jury foreman who read passages from the Bible.
The defendant, Jimmie Lucero of Amarillo, Texas, was sentenced to death after being convicted in the shotgun killing of three neighbors at their home in 2003.
During jury deliberations, the foreman read aloud from Romans 13:1-6, which says everyone must obey the law and that violators should be afraid because a ruler is “God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment to the wrongdoer.”
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said reading the Bible to the jury was “harmless error” in Lucero v. Texas.
On Monday, the Supreme Court also let stand a $74 million judgment against Dish Network Corp. for infringing on a digital video recorder patent owned by TiVo Inc.
TiVo sued in 2004, saying Dish Network - formerly known as satellite broadcaster EchoStar Communications - violated TiVo’s technology that allows viewers to record one television program while watching another. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit agreed.
TiVo developed digital video recorders that let viewers pause, rewind and fast-forward television shows.
Dish Network said its customers would be unaffected by the ruling against it because the Englewood, Colo.-based company has developed new DVR software that it says “does not infringe the TiVo patent at issue in the Federal Circuit’s ruling.”
c This report is based in part on wire service reports.