AUSTIN (KXAN) — Just two days into testimony for Infowars host Alex Jones’ defamation trial, tensions boiled over between the attorneys on both sides.
The close of Wednesday’s court proceedings saw a face-to-face argument on the courtroom floor, over which videos from Jones’ Infowars show could be admitted as evidence in court.
The family of a child who was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting is suing Jones for defamation and inflicting emotional damages after Jones claimed the shooting was fake and called the parents of victims “crisis actors.” A judge already found Jones liable for those claims in a default judgment, citing his team’s “callous disregard” for court orders and refusal to produce documents in the case.
A jury has been called to decide how much Jones owes the family.
The attorneys ultimately exchanged strong words and even an obscene gesture after the court was dismissed, but Wednesday’s disagreement began in front of the judge. The family’s attorney, Mark Bankston, objected to Jones’ attorney’s efforts to admit certain videos as evidence.
Jones’s attorney, Andino Reynal, has previously expressed his desire to play full videos from Jones’ show.
During witness testimony on Wednesday, Bankston played several different video clips containing claims about Sandy Hook, made by Jones or guests of the show.
“Plaintiffs have chosen to play little clips from cherry-picked videos. They agreed before that those could come in. Now, I’m hearing for the first time that these can’t come in. They are relevant to showing the amount of emotional distress that was caused by these publications,” he said.
Bankston told the judge he never agreed to the admission of this evidence by the defense. Plus, he worried the videos might contain hearsay, which is information from other people that the witness cannot substantiate. Bankston told the judge that if he had known about this potential evidence before the trial, he could have gone through the videos and flagged portions containing hearsay.
“I would have done that, had he not agreed in open court that he would play them for ‘optional completeness,'” Bankston said.
Optional completeness, under the Texas Rules of Evidence, means that if one party introduces part of a conversation, writing, or recorded statement, the opposing party may inquire into any other part on the same subject and can introduce evidence that is necessary to explain the subject.
Bankston, visibly frustrated, told the judge he felt this evidence was not being admitted properly under the rules.
The judge directed them to go through the videos and decide what can legally be admitted as evidence now. The judge also told Reynal he could show more of the clips that had already been shown by Mr. Bankston.
“That’s how you do ‘optional completeness.’ You do the whole thing together,” she said.
On Tuesday in his opening statements, Bankston told the jury there would not be enough time “if we were to sit down and try to watch all the videos” where Jones discussed the 2012 attack. The same day, Reynal told the jury the incident made up “less than one half of one percent” of all of Infowars’ content.
Reynal told the judge he had a conversation where he thought Bankston agreed to the admission of the videos. Bankston disagreed.
“They are dishonest,” Reynal said.
“You are going to have to back that up,” the judge said, in addition to asking them to review various codes of conduct.
“For now, I am going to assume it’s been a rough day. Emotions are high. You are never going to do it again, and we are going to move on,” she said.
After the judge left the courtroom, a continuation of the argument was caught on camera. Eventually, one of the attorneys on the plaintiff’s team suggested they “cool down” and speak by phone.
Both attorneys declined to comment on the exchange, but KXAN did speak to Bankston outside the courtroom about how his clients were feeling.
“It’s difficult for them, but they knew this was coming. They have been sort of been emotionally preparing themselves to go through all of this, but it’s not easy. They know they are standing in for a lot of people right now. They know this case is bigger than them.”
He went on to say, “One of the things I have learned in this case, is these parents are the bravest people you will ever meet. They have lived in this media spotlight for years, and they know they need to finish this saga and finish it the right way.”