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At long last, the star of the Ward Churchill trial takes the stage

Categories: Media

kenny be illustration of ward churchill.jpg
Ward Churchill, as drawn by Kenny Be.

Much of the Ward Churchill trial to date has been a big tease. Reports suggested that Churchill might take the stand in his wrongful termination lawsuit against the University of Colorado-Boulder as early as March 16. But it wasn't until yesterday that the once and future prof finally got his chance to speak, and he didn't disappoint. Even his detractors in the media (and they are legion) would have to admit that he's a compelling communicator, and his loquacious nature makes it difficult to get a sense of his arguments in standard news coverage. Even the front-page treatment afforded by today's Denver Post feels like a mere overview. Thank goodness, then, for TheRaceToTheBottom.org, the University of Denver student-professor collaboration lauded in a March 19 More Messages blog. The just-posted coverage from yesterday -- penned by Vanessa Conway and headlined "The Man Himself" -- offers a detailed and disapassionate summary of everything that went on in court yesterday, including testimony by Churchill supporters Tink Tinker and Russell Means and Churchill's own words. Take a look at a representative passage from Conway's account:

In a discussion of the Fort Clark small pox epidemic, Churchill stated that he believed that the idea that the U.S. Army had intentionally inflicted American Indians with small pox was so widely known and accepted that he didn't need to cite it. To that effect, plaintiff's attorney offered into evidence middle school and high school texts making the same or similar points. Within this testimony Churchill critiqued the expertise of Marjorie McIntosh, with Lane's help implying that Professor McIntosh was a mere "hobbyist" and not an expert in his field. Lane was careful to emphasize that the smallpox references in question constituted only 2 paragraphs out of a roughly 200-page text. This discussion eventually transitioned into one describing the scope of communication at the CU investigative hearings. Both the jurors and the crowd perked up a bit when Churchill described the circuitous process by which he was allowed to question his witnesses at the hearing: by typing a question and emailing it across the room to Professor Wesson, as chair of the committee, who would then read (either verbatim or sometimes in altered form) the question to the witness.

TheRaceToTheBottom.org isn't staffed by trained journalists, but those helping to cover the Churchill trial certainly represent the field well. In a story that's been marked by media excesses on both sides, work like Conway's stands as a monument to objectivity. Read the rest of her post here.


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