Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ward Churchill Wins

From New York Times:
The jurors found that Mr. Churchill’s political views had been a “substantial or motivating” factor in his dismissal, and that the university had not shown that he would have been dismissed anyway.

“This is a great victory for the First Amendment, and for academic freedom,” said his lawyer, David A. Lane.

Whether Mr. Churchill, 61, will get his job back, and when, was not resolved. Mr. Churchill’s lawyers said they would ask Judge Larry J. Naves of Denver District Court to order reinstatement, in light of the verdict.
Benjamin Whitmer sez:
There’s some inside scuttlebutt here. David Lane got to talk to the jurors after the case, and word has it they had the following couple of salient points to offer:
  1. Up until the reading of the final instructions by the judge, the jurors thought they were to be deliberating on whether or not Ward had committed academic fraud, pure and simple. It’s an understandable error, given the nature of the witnesses. Their unanimous finding was that Ward hadn’t committed any fraud worthy of the name.
  2. The jurors were disgusted by the repetition of Ward’s protected speech by O’Rourke, including the quotes from the audio that Craig Silverman kept pushing at O’Rourke; they felt this clearly showed the nature of CU’s witchhunt.
As to the award, Ward Churchill never asked for money. In fact he told the jury repeatedly he didn’t want a cent. What he does want is his job back. And given the nature of this verdict, one has to ask how justice could be served if he doesn’t get it. More to come.
The verdict itself is a step in the right direction. Whether it will actually serve to deter universities from going on similar politically-motivated witch hunts in the future remains to be seen (let's just say I'm not exactly holding my breath). If nothing else, we have a jury that saw exactly what quite a few of us saw a few years ago: Churchill was targeted because of what he wrote - not because of his scholarship, but because he had a tendency to tell a side of the story that served to debunk the myth of American exceptionalism.

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