March 16 summary

March 17, 2009

Following is an email summary of yesterday’s proceedings from longtime Churchill supporter, Ken Bonetti, who attended the trial. Again, better than anything I could’ve typed up anyways, so I’m going back to my Nyquil.

Hello Folks,

Today’s summary is a bit long because a lot transpired and yours truly was in court for the afternoon festivities.   Also, I studied the CU report, read the relevant statutes and reviewed some of the relevant history.  Be sure to see the Camera blog below and check out Ben’s blog at https://wardchurchilltrial.wordpress.com/ .

This morning, there was more on the infamous quotation marks related to the General Allotment Act of 1887, known as the Dawes Act.  Churchill was criticized by the investigating committee for allegedly ‘quoting’ the Act concerning the Federal Government’s use of ‘blood quantum’ to determine who was or was not an Indian in the allotment plots of land to individual Native Americans.  The purpose of the Act was to break up what had been common Native lands into individual parcels, convenient for fragmenting of Native lands and the destruction of Native communal society.  Churchill is accused of attributing wording to the Act that actually did not exist in the text.  Churchill asserted in quotes that the Act, for the first time, enabled the use of blood quantum to parcel out land to Native Americans.  

It is clear from reading the Act and Churchill’s writing as related in the investigative report that his quotation marks were not intended to quote the act directly, but were used to highlight the fact that blood quantum would be used  in the allotment of parcels.  By the time Dawes was enacted, blood quantum had been well established as an administrative device to distinguish Natives from non-Natives.  Dawes did not need to specify the administrative device to be used for the allotment of Native lands.   Simply by legislating that such allotments would indeed be carried out, it was assumed blood quantum would be utilized.  

Professor Paul Lombardo, a eugenics expert and law professor, asserted that quotation marks can be used in different ways and need not represent exact wording, though he admitted he does not use “air quotes” in that way himself.  Lombardo also asserted that the practical effect of Dawes was to implement a form of eugenics as Churchill had apparently claimed even though the Act did not mention the term ‘eugenics.’  Lombardo also criticized the investigating committee for making the same mistake in their footnotes for which it criticized Churchill. 

The sparks really flew during CU law professor Mimi Wesson’s morning testimony when Lane accused her of bias as leader of the investigating committee.  An email by Wesson says it all.  Displayed on screen to the court, Professor Wesson wrote she was “somewhat mystified by the variety of people this unpleasant (to say the least) individual has been able to enlist to defend him” and “We aren’t all out there defending Bob Guccione’s First Amendment rights, although God Knows he has them.”  Bob Guccione is the founder of pornographic magazine Penthouse.  The real kicker is Wesson’s criticism of Churchill supporters:  “But the rallying around Churchill reminds me unhappily of the rallying around O.J. Simpson and Bill Clinton and now Michael Jackson and other charismatic male celebrity wrongdoers.”  Wesson admitted that she had not yet met Churchill when she wrote the email.  

Now, who among you all would feel confident about the objectivity of an investigation of your alleged wrong doing if the chief investigator likened you to a world-class pornographer, a double murderer, a lying philanderer or a child molester before s/he even had met you?

Professor Wesson’s afternoon testimony was particularly interesting, as I happened to be in the courtroom for this one.  Mimi looked a bit like she had been run over by a lawn aerator.  Lane went after another of her emails in which she asked Professor Clinton, one of her co-investigators to hurry up on his end in order to get the report done because members of the public were threatening the University with various forms or financial retaliation––presumably if Churchill wasn’t fired in a timely manner.  Not mentioned by the Camera reporter was that she attached an example of a threatening email from one such writer to her email to illustrate the fact. Lane reminded the jury that the Regents rules specify that ‘extrinsic considerations’ are not supposed to influence the deliberations of an investigating committee such as the one Professor Wesson led.  Lane also pointed out that Professor Wesson felt delay would be to Churchill’s advantage; that is he would have more time to defend himself.  She, of course, denied all this.

Lane then went after the breach of confidentiality issue as he had done earlier with DiStefano (who was in attendance and happened to notice I wasn’t safely at work advising economics students).  The point Lane tried to make is that the investigation and report were part of Churchill’s personnel file, which is protected under CU confidentiality rules.  Lane tried real hard to get her to admit all content of Churchill’s file, including details of the investigation was so protected and that she had no intention of protecting Churchill’s confidentiality.  She insisted at the beginning that she would not lead the investigating committee unless the report was to be made public.  Lane and Wesson wrestled with the meaning of words such as ‘all information shall be kept confidential’ to no avail.  Wesson insisted that CU Council told the committee it was okay to make the investigation report public and that Ward didn’t seem to mind.  The whole episode reminded me of a similar conversation I once read about where someone insisted “it depends on what the meaning of is is.” 

The confidentiality exchange greatly excited the CU team.  As soon as the topic was broached the CU lawyers started moving around, whispering to one another, running in and out of the courtroom with arms full of law books and papers and looking a little worried.  CU’s main man O’Rourke began his cross-examination, though little additional testimony was heard, as it was time to adjourn.  However, the main outline of the CU defense seems as if it will center on the legality of making the report public despite what the published CU rules said about confidentiality, and that Ward and his lawyer, Mr. Lane, didn’t seem to object at the time.  But, we’ll see.

Ken

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