Disney Wins Defamation Case Filed by Civil Rights Activist
Birmingham, Alabama (November 19, 2004) — A Jefferson County, Alabama jury today returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Walt Disney Pictures & Television, ABC and a Disney studio executive in a defamation/false light case filed by Amelia Boynton Robinson, a 93-year-old civil rights activist. The plaintiff’s complaint arose out of her portrayal in the television movie, “Selma, Lord, Selma,” which was based on the true events of the civil rights struggle in Selma, Alabama during the 1960s. The movie was shown on the Wonderful World of Disney on the eve of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday in January 1999. Mrs. Robinson, who was involved in the voting rights movement in Selma and who continues to speak on an international scale about her experiences, claimed that the movie portrayed her in a false light and seriously damaged her reputation.
Mrs. Robinson, who was represented by her son, Bruce Carver Boynton, a civil rights attorney from Selma, sought $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The trial began on November 15, 2004, and lasted four days. Among the character witnesses for the plaintiff was J.L. Chestnut, a nationally-known civil rights attorney from Selma. The jury returned with a unanimous defense verdict after deliberating for less than thirty minutes.
Banks Sewell and Terry McCarthy defended Disney, ABC and the Disney studio executive.