Oprah triumphs over the Texas cattle ranchers

FIVE weeks after it began, the Oprah Winfrey mad cow trial ended in Amarillo yesterday with the jury of 12 coming squarely down on the side of the famed television talk-show host and finding against a group of local cattlemen who had accused her of sending the beef market into a spin two years ago.

After cheers went up from crowds outside the monolithic, downtown court building, which in its lobby boasts a colourful and proud fresco of horse- riding cowboys, a beaming Ms Winfrey emerged to declare: "Free speech not only lives - it rocks!"

The wildly popular Ms Winfrey, 44, was forced to move her entire talk- show operation from Chicago to the Texas panhandle city for the duration of the trial, which generated headlines across the country from the moment it started. Normally soporific and dusty Amarillo, meanwhile, basked in the excitement of famous guests coming into its midst daily for recordings of the Oprah show.

At issue in court was an episode of her programme in April 1996 devoted to mad cow disease in Britain. A guest, Howard Lyman, a rancher-turned- vegetarian, said that while there had been no documented cases of the syndrome in the United States herd, it was bound to strike on this side of the water if it had not already.

Angry Texas ranchers accused Ms Winfrey, her production company and Mr Lyman of defaming beef and falling foul of new and highly controversial "veggie libel" laws. On the books in 14 states in the US, the laws seek to protect foodstuffs from slander or defamation.

Claiming that the offending programme had sent beef prices to a 10-year low, the ranchers were seeking damages from the defendants of almost $11m.

In the course of the show, Ms Winfrey asked Mr Lyman if he believed that an outbreak of "mad cow", or BSE, in the US would make Aids look like the common cold. He concurred that it would, to which Ms Winfrey responded that Mr Lyman had just "stopped me from eating another burger".

But after six hours of deliberation, the Amarillo jury sided with Ms Winfrey's argument that she was merely exercising her rights to free speech. One jury member, Pat Gowdy, said: "We felt that a lot of rights have eroded in this country. Our freedom of speech may be the only one we have left."

The forewoman of the jury, Christy Sams, hinted that finding against the cattlemen may not have been so easy. "We didn't necessarily like what we had to do, but we had to decide for the First Amendment," she said in reference to the US Constitution.

Conceding that the trial had been "very, very difficult" for her personally, Ms Winfrey, none the less, remained defiant in defending her record. During the trial she had the support of friends who came to sit in the court's public gallery, including the black American poet, Maya Angelou.

"I will continue to use my voice," Ms Winfrey declared. "I believed from the beginning this was an attempt to muzzle that voice in this country and I refuse to be muzzled. I will not change the way I operate."

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association, meanwhile, issued a statement saying it was "disappointed" with the verdict.

"In today's world of instant and widespread communications, the impact of misinformation can be devastating on the market for perishable agricultural products," the group said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
i100(More than you think)
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
News
news

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney 'denied all knowledge' of the Twitter activity

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
The author PD James, who died on 27 November 2014
people

Detective novelist who wrote Death comes to Pemberley passed away peacefully at her home, aged 94

Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Executive - Software

£20000 - £25000 per annum + 55,000 OTE + benifits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Software Sa...

Argyll Scott International: 2x Service Desk Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

Langley James : IT Project Manager; 6 month FTC; Brighton; £400p/d

£400 - £420 per day: Langley James : IT Project Manager; 6 month FTC; Brighton...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?