Court: Media Don’t Have to Delete Stories When Charges Nixed

NEW YORK (AP) -

A Connecticut woman’s claims that media outlets libeled her by refusing to delete stories about her arrest after charges were dismissed were rejected by a federal appeals court Wednesday.

The ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan pertained to the August 2010 drug arrest of Lorraine Martin. The charges were dismissed five months later and the arrest was deemed to have never taken place according to the state’s Erasure Statute.

In an opinion written by Judge Richard Wesley, the appeals court said a lower-court judge was correct to dismiss the lawsuit, even as it acknowledged that the consequences of a criminal arrest are wide-ranging and long-lasting.

“The statute creates legal fictions, but it does not and cannot undo historical facts or convert once-true facts into falsehoods,” Wesley wrote. “Here, the uncontroverted fact is that Martin was arrested on Aug. 20, 2010, and that the reports of her arrest were true at the time they were published. Neither the Erasure Statute nor any amount of wishing can undo that historical truth.”

The 2nd Circuit said reasonable readers understand that some people who are arrested are guilty and others are not and that charges against some individuals are eventually dropped.