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Closing arguments begin in tobacco trial

[JURIST] Closing arguments began Tuesday in a US government lawsuit filed against tobacco companies over five years ago. The suit went to trial eight months ago and is expected to wrap up this week. Federal prosecutors filed suit [AP report] under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) [text], claiming the tobacco companies conspired to mislead the public about the dangers of smoking. During the case, a federal appeals court ruled that the government could not seek a $280 billion penalty [JURIST report] against the companies for past profits, instead limiting relief to prevention of future violations. This means that even if the judge rules in favor of the government, a highly-damaging penalty is unlikely. Although the trial wraps up this week, there is little indication how US District Judge Gladys Kessler [official profile] will rule or when a ruling is expected. The massive proceeding encompasses 44,000 pages of testimony, 83 live witnesses, and about 6,700 exhibits at a cost to the government of $130 million. The US Department of Justice provides documents and background materials on the tobacco litigation. Reuters has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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