By Jack Queen
(Reuters) - Jurors in the Alex Jones defamation trial began deliberations on Wednesday after a lawyer for a child killed in the Sandy Hook massacre said they should "end this nightmare" and force the U.S. conspiracy theorist to pay them $150 million for falsely claiming the shooting was a hoax.
Jones, founder of the Infowars radio show and webcast, is on trial in Texas to determine how much he and his company, Free Speech Systems LLC, must pay for spreading falsehoods about the killing of 20 children and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012.
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of slain six-year-old Jesse Lewis, testified during the two-week trial in Austin that Jones’ followers have harassed and sent them death threats for years in the false belief that they were lying about their son’s death.
During closing arguments on Wednesday, their attorney, Kyle Farrar, urged jurors to end their nightmare and hold Jones accountable for profiting off their son’s death.
"He was making money off of it by spreading misinformation and spreading lies," Farrar said.
Federico Reynal, an attorney for Jones, conceded during his closing argument that Jones and Infowars reported “irresponsibly” on Sandy Hook but said his client was not responsible for the harassment.
“We live in a community where some people just are unbalanced and are going to take action on their own,” Reynal said.
Jones on Wednesday sought to distance himself from previous falsehoods that the shooting was a hoax, saying it was “crazy” of him to repeatedly make this claim.
Jones, who has previously acknowledged the shooting took place, told jurors that the shooting was “100% real.”
In a surprise development, Mark Bankston, another lawyer for the parents, said during cross-examination on Wednesday that Jones’ legal team had "messed up" and inadvertently sent the plaintiffs' legal team a file containing trial strategy notes and years of texts.
Bankston said the records undercut Jones' testimony that he didn't have any texts about Sandy Hook.
Bankston also accused Jones of approaching the trial in bad faith, citing broadcasts where Jones said the trial was rigged against him and that the jury pool was full of people who "don't know what planet they're on."
The lawyer on Wednesday showed jurors an image from Jones's show that Bankston said depicted Judge Maya Guerra Gamble, who is overseeing the case, on fire. Jones responded that the image showed Lady Justice on fire, not Gamble.
Judge Gamble admonished Jones on Tuesday for not telling the truth under oath after he falsely told the jury he was bankrupt and had complied with plaintiffs' requests for information.
"It seems absurd to instruct you again that you must tell the truth while you testify," she said. "Yet here I am."
Free Speech Systems declared bankruptcy last week. Jones said during a Monday broadcast that the filing will help the company stay on the air while it appeals.
The Sandy Hook gunman, Adam Lanza, 20, used a Remington Bushmaster rifle to carry out the massacre. It ended when Lanza killed himself with the approaching sound of police sirens.
(Reporting by Jack Queen; Editing by Amy Stevens, Noeleen Walder and Howard Goller)