A Texas judge determined that Infowars presenter Alex Jones must pay the parents of a 6-year-old who died in the Sandy Hook tragedy $49 million in defamation damages despite a state provision limiting punitive penalties in civil disputes.
Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin were given $4.1 million in compensatory damages and $45.2 million in punitive damages in August for Jones’ phoney conspiracy theory. Jones’ attorneys tried to use the state’s limit to reduce his debt by $40 million.
Travis County District Court Judge Maya Guerra Gamble questioned the law’s legality at a hearing Tuesday, The New York Times reported.
Guerra Gamble remarked, “This individual and this corporation did something bad.”
In 1995, one of the last Democratic majorities in the Texas Legislature introduced a statute restricting punitive damages in response to a growing resentment against excessive jury verdicts in civil disputes. Punitive damages may only be issued if the jury agrees unanimously.
Former state Rep. Joe Nixon, who created the 2003 statute, told The Texas Tribune in August, when the Jones jury judgement was announced, that there were many cases of doubtful validity at the time.
Jones has lost $1.5 billion in litigation for propagating a conspiracy theory that the 2012 Connecticut school massacre was staged by crisis actors to promote gun control. Parents say the misinformation led to harassment and threats after the massacre, which killed 20 children and six adults.
In March, a jury will evaluate Jones’s damages in a lost Texas lawsuit. His firm, Infowars, filed for bankruptcy last summer.