March 10, 2009

Churchill Trialpalooza Opening Arguments: Churchill's Attorney--"Mob Mentality" Against Client, Churchill "Never Plagiarized"

"The media was out of control -- it was an absolute mob mentality"--Ward Churchill's attorney David Lane, in opening arguments

"Churchill lost his job because he breached the trust of being a university professor. Professor Churchill did things that an eighth grader knows is wrong"--CU defense attorney Patrick O'Rourke


From the Daily Camera--Ward's legal counsel David Lane trots out the Churchill-as-martyr trope:
David Lane, Ward Churchill's attorney, invoked the names of Italian astronomer Galileo, who heretically declared that the Earth was not the center of the universe, and Tenessee teacher John Scopes, who was condemned for teaching evolution in school, as direct comparisons to what his client has undergone in the wake of writing a controversial essay on 9/11.

"Fast forward to 2005... Boulder, Colorado," Lane said during opening statements Tuesday morning.
Lane then moves on accuse CU Boulder of conducting a essentially a "lie-finding" mission using "pet poodles" selected to oust the professor:
Once Churchill's essay became widely public in January 2005, he told the jury, the media wouldn't let it drop.

"The media was out of control -- it was an absolute mob mentality," Lane said.

He said former Gov. Bill Owens threatened to cut funding to CU if it didn't fire Churchill. National media figures also jumped on the anti-Churchill bandwagon, he said.

Lane said all of that pressure prompted CU to find any way it could to get rid of the ethnic studies professor. It didn't stand up for him and defend his free expression rights, Lane said.

"They ran like cowards and they sacrificed this man because they were afraid of the howling mob," he said. "Lacking in courage, CU hung him out to dry."

Lane said the school undertook a full fledged effort to find anything it could in the dozens of books Churchill had written or edited that would justify terminating him. The school picked its own "pet poodles" to head up its committee to look into his client's work, he said, like CU law professor Mimi Wesson. Lane said Wesson, who made disparaging comments about the former professor, was in charge of the Standing Committee for Research Misconduct.
But Lane's biggest challenge, aside from trying to prove that his client was wrongfully terminated due to bias inherent in the system, is his own goal of disproving that Churchill in fact plagiarized or was responsible for any academic misconduct:
He said he would prove to the jury that Churchill never plagiarized and never falsified his work, as the school asserts.

"I think you will see that this guy has devoted his life to telling the truth for people who are not given a voice in society," Lane said, referring to Churchill's long-time affiliation with Native American communities.

He asked the jury to make his client whole again.
Yeah, good luck with that.

CU's attorney Patrick O'Rourke defended the university's actions, declared Churchill's essay "protected speech," but that he committed the "worst kind of academic fraud" possible, and compared his ability to discern appropriate academic behavior to that of a 13-yr-old:
However, he said, when the school began receiving allegations of academic misconduct attributed to the professor, it investigated his writings and found eight instances of plagiarism, fabrication, and falsification. A committee of 20 tenured professors made the determination, he said.

O'Rourke said Churchill's attempts to defend his work on various occasions over the past two years came up short in the eyes of his professorial peers, who held out the possibility that Churchill may have simply made honest errors. They characterized his misconduct as severe, deliberate and damaging.

"They said this is wrong," O'Rourke said. "Churchill lost his job because he breached the trust of being a university professor. Professor Churchill did things that an eighth grader knows is wrong."
More to come this afternoon.

More on the ex-professor in SP's extensive Ward Churchill archives.

More at Drunkablog and PirateBallerina.

Perhaps the 15 minutes are over--altry attendance and lack on national press coverage.

The Denver Channel 7 has a Twitter-style liveblog going as well, and has the testimony from the first witness for the plaintiff:
Professor Evelyn Wu-Dehard [Hu-DeHart, ed.] is called to the stand.

She is a professor of history and ethnic studies at Brown University, formerly at CU.

Says ethnic studies emerged from the civil rights movement in the 60s and 70s. Says the contributions of blacks, Hispanics and Asians had been ignored for years. The notion of citizenship was reserved for white people.

"When CU tried to recruit me … Ward Churchill was already here."

Her opionion: Ward Churchill is one of the leading Native American scholars. One whose scholarship crosses a wide range. His impact is perhaps the single largest of all in ethnic studies.

"I think the worst thing that can happen to a scholar is when no one cares about you. When you provoke others. That is the highest testament to scholars."

She had written that Ward Churchill was not your typical academic.

He was in academic services. He had already be publishing and writing as a scholar. He did not have the usual criteria. Absence of Phd., which says you have an analytical mind. He was able to convince CU to hire him because of his published works.

She said he was an activist... an applied scholar. He takes information and applies it to areas of social import.
Break for lunch, resume at 1:30pm.

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