Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Buckingham Lies Under Oath in Dover

I said I was baffled by why the defense, of all people, would call former Dover school board member William Buckingham to the stand in the case, and here’s why: he was in a no-win situation. He was the one quoted multiple times about wanting to balance out evolution with creationism in Dover’s science classes, but he denied in his deposition that he had ever said such a thing:

School board members Bill Buckingham, Sheila Harkins and Alan Bonsell and Supt. Richard Nilsen have, under oath, either said they have no memory of making the remarks related to creationism or denied making them.

But some residents and former district officials insist the board members made the statements they later denied making…

When attorneys asked Buckingham whether he said at a school board meeting that all he wants is a book that offers balance between what he said are the “Christian view of creationism and evolution,” Buckingham stated, “Never said it.”

But a taped television interview at the time shows Buckingham, the board’s chief proponent of intelligent design, talking about teaching creationism in science class.

So today he takes the witness stand and contradicts his sworn deposition:

A former school board member who denied advocating that creationism be taught alongside evolution in high-school biology classes changed his story Thursday, after lawyers in a federal courtroom played a TV news clip that recorded him making such a comment.

William Buckingham explained the discrepancy by saying that he “misspoke.”…

Buckingham, who led the board’s curriculum committee when it approved the policy a year ago, confirmed Thursday that he said during a June 2004 board meeting that the biology textbook is “laced with Darwinism.” The clip that was shown later in the day came from an interview that he gave to a news crew from WPMT-TV in York later in the month.

“It’s OK to teach Darwin,” he said in the interview, “but you have to balance it with something else, such as creationism.”

Asked to explain by a lawyer for the plaintiffs, Buckingham said he felt “ambushed” by the camera crew as he walked across a parking lot to his car and that he had been consciously trying to avoid mentioning creationism.

“I had it in my mind to make sure not to talk about creationism. I had it on my mind. I was like a deer in the headlights. I misspoke,” he told U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, who is presiding over the non-jury trial.

Earlier in Thursday’s court session, Buckingham claimed that he had been misquoted in stories from two newspapers that reported his advocating the teaching of creationism to counterbalance the material on evolution.

“It’s just another instance when we would say intelligent design and they would print creationism,” he said.

So let’s see how many different explanations we now have, all given under oath. Concerning the statement that evolution must be “balanced with something else, like creationism”

A. “Never said it.”

B. Okay, I now recall that I did say it, and in fact I now recall exactly what was going through my mind at the moment they asked me that question because my memory apparently gets better over time, not worse.

C. Maybe I didn’t say it, maybe I said “intelligent design” and the reporters replaced it with “creationism”…and never mind that man no the videotape.

On the subject of his statement that the current textbook was “laced with Darwinism””

A. I don’t recall saying that.

B. Oh yeah, I said that.

Do I smell a perjury charge coming? Well, probably not. But I think it’s pretty clear that Mr. Buckingham is not only lying, he’s a really bad liar. I cannot for the life of me understand what the defense attorneys were thinking when they put this guy on the witness stand.

Update: It turns out there’s good reason for my bafflement – Buckingham was not a defense witness but a prosecution witness called out of turn. Apparently for scheduling purposes they could not get him to Pennsylvania to appear during the plaintiff’s case, so they had to interrupt the defense case and call him as a plaintiff’s witness. So that clears up the confusion there. I certainly understand why we called him to the stand.

Comments

  1. #1 Hyperion
    October 27, 2005

    I’d be more worried for the defense attorneys. If they knew that Buckingham was lying and put him on the stand anyways, knowing that he would perjur himself, then they are guilty of suborning perjury, in a federal courthouse no less, and should be disbarred.

  2. #2 KeithB
    October 27, 2005

    Maybe they are trying to lose really bad, then they can say, “Oops, these Dover guys weren’t advocating ID, they were really advocating creationism. Just wait until we get our *real* ID curriculum going, that curriculum will be pure science and will have nothing to do with creationism, nope, no way.”

  3. #3 oolong
    October 27, 2005

    KeithB

    LOL!

  4. #4 Pieter B
    October 27, 2005

    oolong –

    We laugh, that we may not weep.

  5. #5 KeithB
    October 27, 2005

    Yes, I realized after I posted that my joke has been the MO of the creationists for the last 20 years.

  6. #6 Michael Hopkins
    October 27, 2005

    If there was any attorneys that was putting him on the stand knowing that he would lie it would be the plaintiffs’ attorneys — Buckingham was called by the plaintiffs, not the defense. But if Buckingham lied, they will not get in trouble since Buckingham was called as a hostile witness. If the plaintiffs’s attorneys think they can prove a lie, it is something they might just welcome.

    So no one will get disbarred for this. If anyone gets in trouble it is Buckingham himself. But I don’t see any one pressing charges against him. Perjury is usually used to get people that prosecuters can’t get on another charge. The biggest negative impact for Buckingham’s performance in the stand will be for the school district’s chances of sucessfully winning the challenge to its ID policy.

  7. #7 FishyFred
    October 27, 2005

    Oh yeah! I forgot that I read that the plaintiffs would be calling a witness out of turn.

    I read somewhere that it would be weird if the defendants appealed on the basis of incompetent counsel. Could someone tell me if that’s possible?

  8. #8 Ginger Yellow
    October 27, 2005

    “Maybe they are trying to lose really bad, then they can say, “Oops, these Dover guys weren’t advocating ID, they were really advocating creationism. Just wait until we get our *real* ID curriculum going, that curriculum will be pure science and will have nothing to do with creationism, nope, no way.”

    Ironically this is exactly the same argument used by post-1989 communists, which is particularly rich given the creationists’ bizarre association of evolution with socialism. Or maybe that was your intention.

  9. #9 Ginger Yellow
    October 27, 2005

    Incidentally, I say he should be charged. I don’t want this guy anywhere near any position of public office.

  10. #10 Michael Hopkins
    October 28, 2005

    This story gets even better.

    Buckingham said in his January deposition that he did not know who donated the copies of Pandas. Now his trial testimony shows that he knew exactly where the donation came from: his church. And he asked his church for donations to buy those copies. For documentation see my comment at the Panda’s Thumb

    Oh what tangled webs we weave…

  11. #11 raj
    October 28, 2005

    Just to remind you, inconsistent testimony as between a deposition (taken about a year earlier) and a trial isn’t necesserily evidence of lying. It might be evidence of inadequate preparation, either for the deposition or the trial. Memories are not perfect.

  12. #12 Kenneth Fair
    October 28, 2005

    “Maybe they are trying to lose really bad, then they can say, “Oops, these Dover guys weren’t advocating ID, they were really advocating creationism. Just wait until we get our *real* ID curriculum going, that curriculum will be pure science and will have nothing to do with creationism, nope, no way.”

    This is, I think, why the DI is pulling out of the Dover trial. If it goes down in flames, which appears more and more likely, they want to be able to say, “That’s not really intelligent design.”

  13. #13 Dave S.
    October 28, 2005

    This is, I think, why the DI is pulling out of the Dover trial. If it goes down in flames, which appears more and more likely, they want to be able to say, “That’s not really intelligent design.”

    Doesn’t that kind of leave Behe holding the bag?

  14. #14 Ed
    October 28, 2005

    So, then you ask DI to distinguish between the ID advaocated in Dover and any other kind. I mean, do they have a paper from a science journal that makes the comparison?

    I think it was Esquire magazine that one called Sen. William Scott from Virginia (not to be confused with Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania) the stupidest person in the Senate. Sen. Scott promptly called a press conference to deny it. The first question at the press conference: “If you are not the stupidest person in the Senate, who is?”

  15. #15 raj
    October 28, 2005

    Kennith, I tend to agree with you, but I also raise the “res judicata” issue. The DI is not a law firm and if they have too much participation in a lawsuit that is held against them, the loss may mean that subsequent litigations on substantially the same issue will be held against them. That is not the case with the TMLC, which is a purported law firm.

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