ST. PETERSBURG, Flor. — Before jurors broke for deliberations last week in Hulk Hogan’s invasion of privacy trial against Gawker Media, an attorney for Gawker implored them to watch the sex tape excerpts that formed the basis for the ex-wrestler’s lawsuit.
The excerpts depicted a mere nine seconds of sex, a fact that Gawker’s lawyer Michael Sullivan emphasized in his closing argument.
“Watch it and decide for yourself,” Sullivan told the jury.
The six jurors watched it.
“The video was worse than I expected. Not so much the sex part of it, but just the conversation,” Salina Stevens said on Monday, after she and her fellow jurors tacked on $25 million in punitive damages to the $115 million they had already awarded Hogan.
For Stevens, 35, the video cemented one of Hogan’s central arguments: That he had no idea he was being recorded when he had sex with the now ex-wife of a man he used to call his best friend.
“I just feel that if he knew he was being videotaped he would not have spoken about the things he spoke about,” Stevens said outside the St. Petersburg, Florida, courthouse.
“It was very human, and if you’re going to be videoed you would not be talking like that,” she added.
Five of the six jurors exited the building in silence and ignored questions from reporters gathered outside. But Stevens, who works in campus safety at a local college, held court with the media for nearly five minutes.
She said that the critical moment in deliberations came when she finally saw Gawker’s video.
“Watching that video sealed it for me,” Stevens said.
Stevens wasn’t persuaded by any part of Gawker’s defense, which rested on the First Amendment.
The defendants argued that the publication of the video excerpts was legitimately newsworthy given how much Hogan spoke about his sex life. Stevens didn’t buy that.
“I understand that we have a First Amendment and I stand behind the First Amendment, but — I’m in front of a ton of media saying this, which is intimidating — but I don’t want that to be used improperly, and I think that it is used improperly way too often,” she said. “You know, we also have privacy laws and I hope that those will be taken into more consideration when stories are being ran.”
When asked by CNNMoney about the possibility of the jury’s decision getting overturned or significantly reduced on appeal, Stevens said, “That was part of our discussion.”
“We’re not naive. We’re talking about a lot of money, and a lot of people who think they did not do anything wrong. It is what it is there,” she said. “I hope wherever it goes that they can kind of continue on the path that we set because I really hope that we have laid some groundwork for those things.”