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Kennedy v. Cannon

Maryland Supreme Court
182 A.2d 54 (Md. 1962)


Cannon (defendant) was a lawyer for an African American man, Charles Humphreys. Humphreys was charged with raping a Caucasian woman, Kennedy (plaintiff). Humphreys told Cannon he had sexual intercourse with Kennedy, but said she consented to the act. Cannon spoke to the editor of a local paper and provided Humphreys’ side of the story. The editor did not print Cannon’s account as delivered, but recounted Kennedy’s charges, stated Humphreys’ admission to intercourse and his belief that Kennedy willingly consented. The article ended by saying Humphreys emphatically denied the rape charge. As a result of the article, Kennedy received annoying and harassing phone calls from strangers. She was eventually forced to move with her family out of the community and out of the state. Kennedy brought suit against Cannon alleging his story to the newspaper amounted to slander in that it falsely accused her of adultery. Cannon admitted he provided the statement to the newspaper article, but stated he believed it was necessary to share Humphreys’ side of the story to protect his client from lynching. He said that when the prosecution published a negative statement about his client, he believed he was justified and privileged in replying as he did. The trial court granted judgment for Cannon, and Kennedy appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Sybert, J.)

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