Monday, March 09, 2009

The Trial of Billy Jerk: Day One

Yes, I stole (okay, plagiarized) that from I have no idea whom, and yes, Ward is suing CU, not the other way around, but--it fits, doesn't it?

Anyway, went down to Civic Center Park to check out the day-long "kick-off event" by Ward supporters that was supposed to take place from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Got there about 10:45: Not a soul. Rah. Can't really blame them. It was chilly and breezy.

Went and looked at Courtroom 6. It's a courtroom. Eight or ten rows of wooden benches, room for maybe 60 people. It was nearly empty. Nothing going on.

Saw Mark Cohen, erstwhile leader of Recreate!68, outside the courtroom, and Ben Whitmer wandering the halls without a pass. He told me things would get started around noon, but I couldn't hang out that long. I may be able to drop in this afternoon for a bit.

Not exactly breaking news, but what the hell.

Update: The DU law student-faculty blog Race to the Bottom has this morning's events:
The morning was spent with examinations of prospective jurors apparently in chambers (none of the interviews took place in open court). The interviews are no doubt designed to uncover any obvious disqualifications. Voir dire and the process of selecting the actual jury that will hear the three week trial will take place in open court beginning at 1:30. The expectation is that the jury will be selected today. Opening arguments are currently scheduled to begin at 8:30 on Tuesday morning.
Update II: Nope, couldn't make it back. Instead I hung out with Clint the appliance delivery guy. He told me how one time he picked up a manual defrost refrigerator, its freezer filled with frost (I guess you call it), took it to the shop, and when it thawed out a couple of days later, there in the back was a quarter-pound of pot. Another time he found a brand-new Ruger in a crisper drawer.

Anyway, I went over to Race to the Bottom to plagiarize their afternoon post and the morning post was gone. That was about an hour ago, and it still hasn't reappeared. Little help, guys. I'm on deadline here.

Update III: The Daily Camera:
A jury of four men and four women -- including two alternates -- has been seated in Ward Churchill's wrongful termination trial against the University of Colorado.

Only eight, huh? I did not know that.

Denver District Judge Larry Naves gave a set of admonishments to the jury, telling them not to read about the case in newspapers or on the Internet or to watch anything about it on television.

Opening statements are scheduled to be made Tuesday at 9 a.m.

The lawyers in the case took an hour vetting the prospective jury as a group Monday afternoon, asking questions about the role of the First Amendment and about the kind of questions a public university has the right to ask when an employee is making controversial statements. . . .

Ward Churchill's attorney, David Lane, asked the potential jurors if it isn't a professor's role, especially in the wake of a devastating event like the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, to "poke (students) and push them and prod them and make them think."
He told the group that Churchill had written his 9/11 essay 7 1/2 years ago from the perspective of someone who had been the victim of an oppressive U.S. foreign policy, not simply as a blatant attack on the country.
That victim of an oppressive U.S. foreign policy being Ward Churchill.
Lane acknowledged that Churchill was a very controversial figure, but he also asked if it isn't at the moment when an incendiary opinion is expressed that it's most important to recognize the right to free expression embodied in the Constitution.
Perhaps, but that has nothing to do with Ward's research fraud.
Lane asserted to the potential jurors that it was the former professor's 2001 essay -- and the essay alone -- that led to his termination by CU, rather than the allegations of plagiarism and academic misconduct the school states is at the heart of the dismissal.

"If we can't show you that the motivating factor is the 9/11 essay, throw us out of the court," Lane said. "If he cheated the way they said he did, fire him."
Patrick O'Rourke, attorney for CU, asked the potential jurors if they thought public employees had the right to say whatever they wanted even if it hurts their employer.

He asked them if the regents at CU didn't have a reason to be concerned when they began hearing alumni and parents threatening to withhold contributions and pull out their students in the wake of the brouhaha that arose around Churchill's essay. The lawyer asked if it was reasonable that the regents at least ask whether the former professor's speech was protected in this instance.

O'Rourke said the university ultimately decided that Churchill's essay was protected by the First Amendment. But he said a subsequent investigation into his writings and work as a professor revealed that he had lied and cheated.

The lawyer asked the potential jurors if a hearing at CU by a group of academicians -- considered to be Churchill's peers -- was a fair way to determine if he had engaged in academic misconduct. He asked if Churchill's reputation as a controversial figure "immunized" him from being found guilty of doing substandard work.

He also asked the group how many of them felt that CU was a "screwed up" place, given the various controversies it has endured over the last few years.

Most of the comments from the potential jurors centered on concerns over the extent of First Amendment protections rather than worries over academic misconduct.
Whuh-oh. If Lane can fool them into believing its about the First Amendment, it's over.
One man asked if the work of all of CU's tenured professors was regularly reviewed. Another potential juror called CU's system of faculty review "messed up."

As Naves began dismissing potential jurors, one man who had expressed strong opinions about the importance of the First Amendment during questioning gave an angry speech to the judge when he was told that he was no longer needed for the jury.

"I don't appreciate being demonized for believing in the Constitution," he said, as he headed for the exit.
Can't imagine why he was dismissed. Oh, well, sorry I missed it. Opening statements tomorrow!

Update IV: As Leah points out in comments, I was looking in the wrong place for Race to the Bottom's Chutch coverage. Here's today's afternoon report. More thorough than the Camera's, and fairly balanced. The blogger, J. Robert Brown, is a DU professor who teaches corporate and securities law and is therefore clearly a technocrat of empire, despite his chairmanship of the board of directors of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

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