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Washington jury will view ‘Committee’ documentary

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Susan Falvella-Garraty

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Jurors in the $100 million libel lawsuit against author Sean McPhilemy will be allowed view the television documentary that was the basis of his controversial book "The Committee."

Portadown car dealers David and Albert Prentice are suing McPhilemy, Box Productions and Roberts Rinehart Publishers in Washington’s Superior Court in what is expected to be a long trial.

The trial opened with preliminary legal arguments and rulings by the judge on Monday while jury selection followed on Tuesday. An extensive list of expert witnesses has been lined up by both sides in the case.

"We were pleased with the judge’s initial rulings and hope to finish jury selection soon," said McPhilemy’s attorney, Russell Smith.

Smith said the judge had agreed to allow him to play the documentary, first screened on the British network Channel 4.

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After rejecting motions for dismissal by both sides, Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Alprin last week decided to let an American jury decide the merits of the libel case.

McPhilemy’s book, "The Committee: Political Assassination in Northern Ireland," charges instances in which prominent Protestant business, political and religious leaders in Northern Ireland allegedly colluded with members of the RUC and loyalist terrorists in targeting Catholics for execution in the late 1980s and early ’90s.

"The judge will allow us to show the whole picture of life in Northern Ireland with its bias against Catholics and collusion between the police, the military, and loyalist groups," Smith said.

Both legal teams were gearing up at the outset of the trial for a marathon courtroom battle. The Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Libel Resource Defense Fund are some of the organizations supporting Roberts Rinehart and McPhilemy in the case.

"The defense would have liked to have depicted this as a case of whether people went to meetings and planned murders," Smith said. "Instead the judge has allowed us to look at all aspects of Northern Ireland."

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