Did Dover defendants lie?
Electric stun belt for "hostile witnesses"?
The "Judgment Day" TV program prompted me to revisit some of the issues in the Dover case. I decided to look more closely at the charge that defendants William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell lied about where they got the money to buy the copies of "Of Pandas and People" for the school library. Here is some of the court testimony (plaintiffs' attorney Steven Harvey questioning William Buckingham):
Q. Well, as a matter of fact, Mr. Buckingham, I asked you specifically who donated the money, and you didn't tell me at your deposition on January the 3rd, 2005. Isn't that true?
A. The cash are you talking about?
Q. I asked -- let's review your testimony. Please go to Page 57, Line 9.
A. Of the March or --
Q. This is January 3rd.
A. 57, Line 9?
Q. Yes, sir.
A. I'm there.
Q. I asked you the following questions, and you gave the following answers:
Question: The school district received a number of copies of the book Of Pandas and People. Correct? Answer: Yes. Question: Do you know how many copies? Answer: I've been told there were 60. I haven't seen them. Question: Do you know where that came from, who donated the money? Answer: No, I don't. Question: You have no idea? Answer: I have thoughts, but I don't know. Question: What are your thoughts? Answer: I think it could have a tie to Alan Bonsell, who was board president at the time. Question: Why do you think -- I know you're not saying it was, but why do you think it might have ties to Mr. Bonsell? Answer: Because he was the president of the board at the time, and I just deduced from that that.
That was the testimony that you gave on January the 3rd of 2005. Isn't that true?
A. Doesn't that reference the books, not the money?
Q. Isn't that the testimony that you gave on January the 3rd, 2005?
Q. And then if you'll turn, Mr. Buckingham, to -- or, actually, go down the page to Line 24 on Page 58. Didn't I ask you the following questions and you give the following answers:
Question: Were you ever at a board meeting where someone asked who donated the book to the school, in fact, Larry Snoke, a former board member asking who donated it? Answer: I think he expressed a wonder-type thing over where they came from. I don't think -- I don't remember anybody asking directly where they came from. Question: Were you curious to know where it came from? Answer: I know they came from someone in the public sector. I know we didn't use taxpayer funds to pay for them.
Question: Did you ask where it came from? Answer: No. Question: Why didn't you ask? Answer: Didn't want to know. Question: Why didn't you want to know? Answer: Well, what purpose would it serve? Question: Well, because you're a board member and the school district is part of your responsibility as a board member and maybe where these books came from would be something that you should know. Answer: No, I think it was a wonderful gesture, and I didn't concern myself with where they came from.
That was your testimony, wasn't it, Mr. Buckingham?
A. I believe Larry Snoke was asking where the money came from, not where the books came from, and that was why I answered that that way. And the rest of it is my testimony, yes.
Q. Well, when I asked you, why didn't you ask where it came from, and you said, didn't want to know, what you really meant to say was that you knew where it came from. That was the right answer there, wasn't it? That was the correct answer?
A. I didn't know who donated the cash. I knew they were in a certain building when they put it in the box, but I don't know who put the cash in the box.
Q. You knew that I was seeking that --
A. In the mailbox.
Q. You knew that I was seeking that information when I asked you those questions on January 3rd, and you didn't give me the -- you didn't tell me anything about donations being taken -- a collection being taken at your church. Isn't that correct?
A. I didn't consider it a collection. I didn't ask for it. They just did it because there was a need there. I didn't ask them for it.
Q. Mr. Buckingham, you lied to me at your deposition on January 3rd, 2005. Isn't that true?
A. How so?
Q. By not telling me, when I asked you those questions, that you knew that a collection had been taken at your church for the book Of Pandas and People.
A. I did not take a collection.
Q. Well, you wrote the check to Donald Bonsell, didn't you?
A. Yes, I did.
Q. And you didn't tell me that you knew that -- anything about Mr. Bonsell, did you?
A. I don't recall if I did or not.
Q. Well, we just read your testimony. You didn't say anything about Donald Bonsell in that testimony, did you? Do you want to go back and look at it?
A. Well, there's more testimony than that. I don't know if I referenced him anyplace else in it or not.
Q. Well, when I was asking you about where the donation of Of Pandas and People came from, you didn't mention anything about Donald Bonsell, did you? Do we need to relook at your testimony again?
A. I'd like to, yes.
Q. Okay. Let's do that. January 3, Page 57, Line 9. Let me read it to you again, Mr. Buckingham, and you tell me if I've got it right.
Question: The school district received a number of copies of the book Pandas and People. Correct? Answer: Yes. Question: Do you know how many copies? Answer: I've been told there were 60. I haven't seen them. Question: Do you know where that came from, who donated them? Answer: No, I don't. Question: You have no idea? Answer: I have thoughts, but I don't know. Question: What are your thoughts? Answer: I think it could have a tie to Alan Bonsell who was board president at the time. Question: Why do you think -- I know you're not saying it was, but why do you think it might have ties to Mr. Bonsell? Answer: Because he was the president of the board at that time, and I just deduced from that that. Did I read that correctly?
A. Yes, you did.
Q. No reference to Donald Bonsell in there. Right?
A. No, there wasn't.
Q. You should have told me about that at the time, shouldn't you, to be truthful?
A. I thought I answered the question the way you asked it. Money was given to Alan Bonsell to forward to someone, turning out to be his father, that it was going to go someplace else. I don't --
Q. Well, you knew that it was being given to Donald Bonsell because you wrote his name on the check?
A. That's true.
THE COURT: Mr. Harvey, why don't you move to the next area. I get the point, and you've made the point very effectively, and I don't think you need to stay in this area. I'll give you some more latitude if you want, a little bit, but --
MR. HARVEY: Your honor, I'm done.
It looks to me like a lot of Buckingham's alleged "lies" were really just minimal answers -- volunteering as little information as possible -- in answering witch-hunting, fishing-expedition type questions. For example, in answering the question of who donated the money, Buckingham told the truth when he said that he did not know -- most of the money came from anonymous cash donations at a church. The question of "where" donations came from could be interpreted as meaning who donations came from rather than the physical places where the donations were made. Some of the questions about Alan Bonsell and his father could be interpreted as questions about whether they donated the books or the money, not whether they purchased the books. And in some of the questions, there was the ambiguity of whether Harvey was talking about the books or the money. IMO Buckingham did lie when he claimed not to know how the Bonsells were involved, but when you are trying to give minimal answers, it is easy to slip up and tell some lies. Anyway, Harvey seemed to take Buckingham's "lies" personally -- he didn't just say "you lied" but said "you lied to me."
A lot of people have said that Buckingham and Bonsell should have been prosecuted for perjury or that they were lucky to escape perjury charges. However, to me, the reasons why they were not prosecuted for perjury are clear:
(1) Their alleged lies could not have affected the outcome in the case.
(2) Some of the alleged "lies" were not lies but were just minimal answers.
(3) Some of the questions were ambiguous.
(4) Immunity to a charge of perjury is usually granted when the whole true story is told.
(5) The question of where the money for the books came from was irrelevant because there was no tax money involved.
(6) Perjury charges would have made martyrs of them in the minds of a lot of people.
Anyway, Buckingham and Bonsell were not the only people here who were not completely honest. The Dover High School science teachers, by refusing to read the ID statement, reneged on their agreement to accept "Of Pandas and People" as a reference text in exchange for the school board's acceptance of a heavily pro-Darwinist main biology text. The newly elected school board members reneged on their campaign promises by not repealing the ID policy immediately. Judge Jones was dishonest when he pretended to be impartial and then said in a commencement speech that his decision was based on his notion that the Founders believed that organized religions are not "true" religions. Judge Jones lied when he said through a spokesperson that he does not publicly comment on the specifics of the case. "Judge not, lest ye be judged."
Also, IMO calling Buckingham a "hostile witness" sounds disparaging, like he testified while wearing an electric stun belt or a straitjacket. All the term really means here is that the opposing side got to question him first. The term sounds derogatory and its use ought to be discontinued.
Anyway, I think that Buckingham and Bonsell came across pretty well in PBS NOVA's "Judgment Day."
Labels: Kitzmiller v. Dover (new #1)