Trials: The Limits of Political Invective

The case was being tried in the small town of Okanogan, Wash. (pop. 2,001), but it had a big-city price tag: the plaintiffs asked $225,000 damages for libel and conspiracy. The cast of characters read like the line-up for a movie: an admitted ex-Communist, an organizer for the John Birch Society, two former state legislators (one a Democrat, the other Republican) and a dapper weekly newspaper publisher. Bit parts were to be played by a Hollywood star and an ex-U.S. Senator.

The lead was played by John Goldmark, 46, a Harvard law graduate...

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