The Law: No Place for Seditious Libel

In the fall of 1962, Jim Garrison, the towering district attorney of Orleans Parish, was determined to cut down vice in the French Quarter of New Orleans. But the parish's eight criminal judges refused to give their approval, which was necessary before the D.A.'s undercover agents could be paid. In a blast to the press, Garrison said the refusal raised "interesting questions about the racketeer influences on our eight vacation-minded judges." Garrison's statement raised something else: the judges charged him with criminal defamation, a misdemeanor that, in Louisiana, requires no jury trial. Garrison was convicted, sentenced to a $1,000 fine and...

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