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Ruling against Court TV, a federal judge in Atlanta has decided that a libel case against the cable network should be tried in Georgia rather than in New York state. U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper of the Northern District of Georgia issued the three-page ruling six weeks after Court TV lawyers squared off in federal court in Atlanta against L. Lin Wood Jr., who represents John and Patsy Ramsey. Their 6-year-old daughter, JonBen�t, was slain in the couple’s Colorado home in 1996. No one has been charged with her slaying, although the girl’s parents have been the subject of a criminal investigation by a Colorado grand jury, which did not indict them. The Ramseys have sued Court TV on behalf of their son, Burke Ramsey. The suit alleges that Court TV defamed him during a 1997 broadcast when the network and television panelists suggested that he had, at one time, been a suspect. An affidavit submitted by the Boulder County district attorney who presided over the grand jury investigation states that Burke, who was 9 when JonBen�t was killed, was never a suspect. Cooper also refused to dismiss the case, writing in an Aug. 28 order, “The court concludes that the telecast and press release are reasonably capable of defamatory meaning.” Court TV attorney Cameron A. Stracher of the Washington, D.C., firm Levine Sullivan & Koch argued the case should be transferred to New York, where Court TV has its headquarters, for trial. In Georgia, to prove defamation, the Ramseys would have to prove that Court TV was negligent in airing certain statements made about Burke, who Wood insists is a private figure. In New York, the Ramseys additionally would have to demonstrate that the network acted “with gross irresponsibility,” a potentially higher standard. In his order, Cooper concluded that “Georgia has an overarching interest in this litigation.” Court TV assembled, printed and distributed a promotional news release in New York and eventually telecast from there the show that the Ramseys claim defamed their son. But, Cooper wrote, “The court finds the state with the most significant relationship is Georgia. Accordingly, Georgia state law is the appropriate choice of law.”

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