Prop 8 Press Conference Follies

Marcy Wheeler, Teddy Partridge

In which Teddy gets the lights and cameras turned off because he wants to ask a question and the bigots’ side doubts he’s ‘media.’

Also, the question is a really good one that Marcy thinks has SCOTUS appeal ramifications.

But I’ll back up.

At the end of each court day, each side makes a short press statement in the Courthouse media center. It’s a really small room; bright lights, two cameras. Marcy and I attended Thursday night; I asked Plaintiff’s Counsel Boutrous to characterize that days’ opposing counsel’s questions as appearing to play to a non-existent jury. I mean, why try (unsuccessfully) to poke holes in Plaintiffs’ Expert Witness Dr Ilan Meyer? It just didn’t make sense to me, because Judge Vaughn Walker is obviously an intelligent guy. Why would the Defendant-Intervenors’ Counsel play such an anti-intellectual card to such a smart judge?

Boutrous (wisely) replied that he wasn’t going to characterize (esteemed? did he say esteemed? perhaps he said worthy) opposing counsel’s arguments. But that he was extremely pleased with Dr Meyer’s day on the stand and they couldn’t be more pleased with his testimony.

That was Thursday.

As I documented Friday, we then saw even more rampant anti-intellectualism, capped by a profound misunderstanding of the process and purpose of logic and the scientific method. (See "So, Was Science Wrong?".) I was flabbergasted.

What were the Defendant-Intervenors up to? Didn’t they profoundly misunderstand their audience — Judge Vaughn Walker and Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy?

As trial ended, Egregious and I went down to the Media Room for the presser, while Marcy packed up after her long day liveblogging.

Plaintiffs’ counsels Boutrous and Megill characterized their day as another really successful day for their side, which it was. There were a number of good questions, and they discussed the fact that Defendant-Intervenors, having withdrawn four expert witnesses, were now down to only two, so perhaps the trial will end on time (a pressing concern, apparently of, Matthew Bjako (Bay Area Reporter) who is consumed with knowing when this trial will be over).

I asked Boutrous about the long segments Megill played of Defendant-Intervenors’ Expert Witness Lauren Marx’s deposition — in which he made a mistake in his definition of "biological parent." It had to be embarassing to a scholar at the Louisana State University School of Human Ecology who also works with the LSU AgCenter’s Parents Preparing for Success Program (PPSP). Dr Marx (undergraduate and M.S. degrees in Family Science and Human Development from Brigham Young University; Ph.D. in Family Studies from the University of Delaware; full C.V. here).

I asked Plaintiff’s Counsels Boutrous and Megill: Could they confirm that Dr Marx was one of the four Defendant-Intervenors’ Expert Witnesses who had withdrawn from the case, leaving the defending side with only two witnesses?

Boutrous congratulated Megill on his stupendous, mistake-revelatory deposition of Dr Marks, and (by inference) Megill’s expertise at getting the mistake part of the entire Marks recorded depo into evidence, as part of a series of questions he asked Plaintiffs’ Expert Witness Dr Lamb. As Boutrous pointed out as questioning resumed this afternoon:

Boutrous: Withdrawal of expert witness. They withdrew expert witnesses bc of concerns about cameras. Not one time did they suggest that the withdraw of the witnesses bc of cameras. Withdrew after SCOTUS decision, we predicted they would withdraw them bc of cross-examination.

Thompson: Respond for completeness of record. Advise that witnesses had a significant concern about cameras. Plaintiffs exacerbated our concerns when they asked the recording continue.

And, yes, he said, Marx was one of the witnesses who’d withdrawn, citing cameras.

I was thinking: If four of the six planned Defendant-Intervenors’ Expert Witnesses have withdrawn because of the threats of violence and harassment anticipated to be hurled at them by the LGBT community should the still-being-filmed testimony eventually escapes Judge Vaughn Walker’s chamers, what is it about the two remaining Defendant-Intervenors’ Expert Witnesses that has enabled them to continue to testify?

Are they particularly brave? Is their testimony such that it wouldn’t rile up the LGBT community? I mean, Dr Marks withdrew not because he realized that he had made a humiliating rookie error in defining "biological parent" differently than his source studies did. Did Marx decide to withdraw because Plaintiffs’s Counsels’ cross-examination is heading right at him?

How convenient that he can cite the cameras as his reason for withdrawal!

His withdrawal is, we’re told, motivated by the fear of intimidation, harassment, and even violence that the Defendant-Intervenors’ Counsel claims has been leveled at supporters of Prop 8 throughout the campaign.

I mean, wouldn’t you want to know why the remaining two witness were still able to testify, even in the face of the threats of violence, harassment, and prejudice? I was.

And so the Andy Pugno, General Counsel for, took the podium to make his brave little statement in a quavering voice about how his side had so skilfully poked so many holes in the Plaintiffs’ expert witnesses today. They had also demolished the entire purpose of having Helen Zia on the stand.

Clearly Pugno was watching an entirely different trial than the one Marcy Wheeler and I watched — which wouldn’t surprise me. He’s up in the Ceremonial Courtroom with us now, sitting off to the side in the jury box. He peeps at Marcy and me more than he’s watching the trial. He and the Public Relations harridan have decided to watch their case collapse through the eyes of the very Plaintiff-friendly audience in the Ceremonial Courtroom. It must be torture. (Think Byron York at the Libby trial, watching the FDL crew from off to the side in the media room because Barbara Comstock needed a mole after she got herself kicked out of the media room for not being, um, media.)

Pugno wrapped up, inhaled deeply and took a couple of questions after his narration of the Other Trial, the one the bigots and homophobes are winning. Journalists with traditional media training (you know who you are, Sergio and Matthew!) are much better at just calling out their questions. I figured I would raise my hand, as I had done with Boutrous, since Boutrous outlasted the porkpie-hat crowd and eventually recognized me.

(Well, Egregious made me stand up while I raised my hand; that helped.)

I held my hand up patiently, while Pugno took the called-out questions from the journalists. Then he glanced around the room, looked right at me with my raised hand, smirked (in his bravest voice, really) Thank you all very much. Which apparently is the signal for the technicians to turn off the bright lights and shut down the cameras.

So I looked at him (all of ten feet away from me, with only about a dozen of us in the room) and asked, "Don’t I get to ask my question? I had my hand up very politely and hoped to be called on."

He turned his back on me, picked up his briefcase, and headed toward the door.

I repeated, "Aren’t you going to answer my question?"

And he looked across at me and said, "No… well, who are you? Are you media?"

And I replied, "Of course I’m media. I’m Teddy Partridge with, we’re here liveblogging the trial. And I have a question."

And he said "Yeah, I know who you are."

So I said, "Well my question is, how come two of your remaining Expert Witnesses are so brave in the face of all the threats of violence and harassment from the LGBT community? What makes them different from the four who’ve withdrawn? What is about what they have to say that makes them so different?"

He was still gathering up his things, and walking out of the room, and he looked over his shoulder at me and replied, "Well, I don’t know."

I asked, "You don’t know? How can you not know whether two of your remaining Expert Witnesses are too worried to testify?"

And he’s looming over my chair by now (or trying to, I think I stood up and the looming stopped) and he said, "Because. I. Have. Not. Asked. Them."

And scampered out of the room.

Somehow, I think the Press Conference Follies might get even more fun next week.

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