30 December 2005

Desparate, pathetic, and disgusting - DI's West on Judge Jones

John West of the Discovery Institute has been critiquing Judge Jones' decision in the Dover ID lawsuit over at the DI Media Complaints Division blog. I haven't, for the most part, addressed these posts, since other Pandas' Thumb regulars have more relevant expertise and have been doing a better job at it than I could. His latest post, however, is so far from the bounds of decency and civility that I can't leave it be. One part in particular, mentioned in passing by PvM in another PT post, hits a new low. In a relatively short passage, West manages to combine a gratuitous personal attack with a view of both what it should mean to be a conservative and on what a lawyer should be proud of that is twisted beyond all recognition.

Here's the passage:
In addition, Judge Jones does not seem in sync with most conservatives' attitudes toward crime and punishment. During his confirmation hearings, he spoke with pride about defending a murderer of a twelve-year old boy and how he was able to get the murderer spared from the death penalty:
I served for 10 years, Madam Chairwoman, as an assistant public defender in Schuylkill County, and so very frequently I found myself enmeshed in unpopular areas representing unpopular people. In particular, in 1989, I represented an individual who was alleged to have murdered a 12-year-old boy. It was, as you can imagine, coming from a small town, a highly charged atmosphere. We had a week-long trial. I represented him throughout in a most difficult circumstance, with the community at large very much against him. He was convicted. I was able to keep him from suffering the death penalty in that case... I was very proud to do that as an assistant public defender consistent with my obligations as an attorney.

In a sick and twisted sort of way, I almost admire West. He must have put a hell of a lot of time into learning how to be a slippery, lying, son-of-a--. Unless the man was born without a shred of human decency, he would have had to learn how to override those instincts, and that's (fortunately) not something that just anyone is capable of.

For those who haven't figured out exactly where the lie is in that excerpt, I'll highlight it in boldface and mark it with ** at the start and end of the suspect area:
He was convicted. I was able to keep him from suffering the death penalty in that case**...** I was very proud to do that as an assistant public defender consistent with my obligations as an attorney.
What a surprise, the lie is in the ellipsis.

What West did was to selectively omit material, resulting in a passage that looks like it means something a bit different from what the author actually said. Remember, West's take on the quote is that it demonstrates that, "Judge Jones does not seem in sync with most conservatives' attitudes toward crime and punishment." The quote is placed in support of that statement, and is clearly intended to imply that Jones was proud of what he did because of his views on crime and punishment. If the quote is examined in context, however, it paints a slightly different question. Let's start by looking at the question that Jones was answering:
Senator Cantwell. Without objection.
I have one last question for actually all of you, a panel question. Some of our most beloved judges in history have been judges who made decisions that were against popular sentiment, or stood up to protect the rights of minorities or people's whose views made them outcasts.

Can you tell me of an instance in your career where you have stood up, took an unpopular stand, or fought for something, maybe a client, and how you stood up to those pressures?
If nothing else, this indicates that Jones was not responding to a question about his views on punishment in general or on the death penalty in particular. Now, let's look at his whole response, not just the part that paints the picture that West wants people to see. I'll use boldface to indicate the material quoted by West, and I will use italics to indicate the material that is contained within West's ellipsis.
I served for 10 years, Madam Chairwoman, as an assistant public defender in Schuylkill County, and so very frequently I found myself enmeshed in unpopular areas representing unpopular people. In particular, in 1989, I represented an individual who was alleged to have murdered a 12-year-old boy.

It was, as you can imagine, coming from a small town, a highly charged atmosphere. We had a week-long trial. I represented him throughout in a most difficult circumstance, with the community at large very much against him. He was convicted. I was able to keep him from suffering the death penalty in that case.


But I learned perhaps more than anything else that I ever did as an attorney about the obligation that we have as attorneys to take on occasionally unpopular cases, and that at that time was the most unpopular case that I could possibly have chosen to have undertaken. And so that stands out amongst all the cases that I ever handled, or matters that I have handled as the most unpopular, but I was very proud to do that as an assistant public defender consistent with my obligations as an attorney.
Wow. Is it just me, or does the material that West cut from the passage change the meaning just a mite? Jones' isn't saying that he's proud that he kept the guy off of death row, he's saying that he was proud to take on an unpopular case because that was his duty as a public defender.

And it was his duty, and he should be proud of that. This country was not founded with the sort of "fry 'em all and let God sort it out mentality" that seems to be promoted by some these days. The founders of this country deliberately decided to use a justice system based on an assumption of innocence, and to make sure that anyone accused of a crime was entitled to a proper defense. Supporting that powerful principle should not be a mark of "liberalism," or indicate that someone doesn't have the "right" view of crime and punishment. Supporting the right of anyone accused of a crime to an adequate defense should be - is - an American Value.

A lawyer who is providing the defense for an accused criminal has the same obligation to the client whether he or she was hired by the accused or assigned the case as a public defender. That obligation is simple and clear: the lawyer must defend the client to the best of their abilities. Nothing less should be acceptable.

John West has become so desparate for ammunition to use to attack the decision and the judge that he is apparently willing to resort to dishonesty and false witness. In this case, he has overstepped the bounds of human decency. He has tried to take a lawyer's account of doing the right thing for a client - a lawyer demonstrating the ideals of the American justice system - and twist it into a "soft on crime" attack.

If West has any remaining hint of human decency, he will apologize and retract that portion of his attack. If he has something that serves as an occasional substitute for human decency, he will at least clarify his post to show why Jones was proud of what he did. I'm not holding my breath waiting for either.

12 Comments:

Blogger Ed Darrell said...

Were an attorney to butcher a quote in such a manner, she could be subject to sanctions from the state bar association.

Judge Jones has won the respect of his colleagues from all political persuasions, for his high ethics as an attorney.

It is a particularly cheap, and small, trick for West to do that.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

John West is the kind of Christian we all aspire to be.


Isn't he?

4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Intersting. Did someone on the DI side take that blog entry by West down? The link doesn't go to the page quoted by QA. I could not find any entry like the one quoted here, even when I searched on the word "ellipsis".

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

> To anonymous:

This link has the quote:
http://www.evolutionnews.org/2005/12/dover_in_review_pt_4_are_the_n_1.html

6:06 PM  
Anonymous Michael Hopkins said...

I was just yesterday listening to a biography of John Adams on tape. The one thing that he was most proud of was that he defended the soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre. This was an extraordinarily unpopular thing to do, but he believed that everyone should get a fair trial. And he largely got them off the hook. Instead of being hung, only two were convicted and got a much lesser penality. The prosecutor, sided with the British during the Revolution.

So a 18th Century West would think that the prosecutor was a patriot and Adams one of the torries.

---

Still West has every right to be hateful. Indeed Jones ordered Shippensburg University not to enforse its code against hate speech. ;-)

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why all the surprise at a little creative creationist quote mining? Geez, guys. This is SOP for the DI. West learned it from Henry Morris and Duane Gish.

RBH

6:21 PM  
Anonymous truth machine said...

Look, it has already been well established through numerous lines of evidence that John West et. al. are despicable scum. Whether that manifests itself as altering a sentence so as to change the referent of a pronoun from taking on an unpopular case to keeping a client from suffering the death penalty (which truthfully doesn't really amount to much since Jones was evidently and justly proud of both) or in some other way is mere detail.

1:13 AM  
Blogger JS said...

I shouldn't think that the alteration changed the meaning very much. Jones was clearly under a legal and moral obligation to get the best possible deal for his client - that's kinda the point of having a defence lawyer.

What's truely reprehensible about West's attacks is his total disregard for the role the defence plays in a trial. Even if what West quoted was all there was, concluding anything about Jones' political views would have displayed a callous disregard for due process.

5:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

couple of points. (i) the meaning was changed totally by the omission, (ii) if you stop pointing out these things for the record and instead start to rely on "ah but we all know that West et al. are liars", you will quickly find that people who are new to the argument will begin to ignore you. So (iii) keep up the good work - it is well worth it and this is a particularly good example.

8:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

evolutionnews.org accepts backtracks... How about give a link from this post?

12:14 PM  
Blogger Nasty Little Man said...

Great observation, QA. I both watched the trial closely and am a fervent abolitionist. Even if he is a supporter of the dp (don't know if he is), Judge Jones' integrity has reinforced my respect for him.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Jay said...

Excellent job Mike.

Here's a manual trackback to my comments on your post.

http://www.ocellated.com/2006/01/06/discovery-institute-sinks-to-new-lows/

9:59 AM  

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