Ward Churchill Wins Civil Suit Against CU

Jury Awards Churchill $1 Damages

Controversial professor Ward Churchill has won his wrongful termination lawsuit against the University of Colorado.

After a day and a half of deliberations, six jurors on Thursday sided with Churchill, but only awarded him $1 in damages. Churchill has maintained that winning money was never his goal, but earning back his reputation and his job at CU was the reason for the suit.

"What's next for me? Reinstatement of course. That's what I asked for. I didn't ask for money. I asked for justice, and justice takes the form of the things I've talked about already in terms of exposing the falsity of the university's position -- which had nothing to do with scholarly integrity," Churchill said, wearing sunglasses, and surrounded by his supporters.

Churchill's attorney David Lane told 7NEWS money was not the primary motivator in Churchill's lawsuit and the university will still have to reimburse Churchill's attorney expenses, which will amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"This case is not about the money. It has never been about the money. The jury did justice, and this is a great victory for the first amendment and academic freedom," Lane said.

Whether Churchill gets reinstated will be decided by Judge Larry Naves in a separate hearing.

CU attorneys said the jury made the wrong decision and will ask Naves, despite of the jury's ruling, to not reinstate Churchill.

CU President Bruce Benson released a statement Thursday evening saying "While we respect the jury’s decision, we strongly disagree."

Benson said the verdict didn't change the fact that "more than 20 of Ward Churchill’s faculty peers on three separate panels unanimously found he engaged in deliberate and repeated plagiarism, falsification and fabrication."

"The jury’s award is an indication of what they thought of the value of Ward Churchill’s claim," Benson said.

In 2007, CU fired Churchill after faculty panels said he plagiarized and misrepresented sources in his academic research. Churchill claimed the university was looking for an excuse to fire him after his controversial Sept. 11, 2001 essay caused outrage across the country. Churchill said his free speech rights to criticize the government were violated.

Naves asked the jury if the plaintiff was dismissed for any other reason beyond his Sept. 11, 2001 essay. The jury said no -- that he was fired "substantially" because of the essay.

After the verdict was read, Churchill hugged his attorney and his wife, Natsu Saito.

What do you think of the verdict? Leave your comments below.

Lawyers Argued Churchill Was Victim Of Witch Hunt

Lane said during closing arguments Wednesday that his client was fired for criticizing history's "master narrative."

"When you tell the truth about the master narrative, the master slaps you down for it," Lane said. "Basically, white guys in suits write history."

Lane accused former Gov. Bill Owens of lying to jurors when he told them he did not call the university president and demand that Churchill be fired.

Betsy Hoffman, who was president of the university at the time, testified that Owens pressured her to fire Churchill and said he would "unleash my plan" when she told him she couldn't. In his testimony, Owens denied threatening the university.

University officials concluded Churchill couldn't be fired because of his First Amendment rights, but they launched an investigation of his academic research.

University attorney Patrick O'Rourke said the probe into Churchill's work was fair and his firing was justified. Churchill's Sept. 11 essay was not included in the investigation against him, O'Rourke said.

"Professor Churchill is trying to use the First Amendment to excuse his own fraud," O'Rourke said. "What we've learned is that in Ward Churchill's world, there are no standards and no accountability."

Churchill's essay called the World Trade Center victims "little Eichmanns," a reference to Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi who organized the Holocaust. The essay was written in 2001 but attracted little attention until 2005, when critics publicized it after Churchill was invited to speak at a Hamilton College in upstate New York. That touched off a national firestorm.

Then-Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and other political leaders called for Churchill's firing. University officials said Churchill's remarks were protected by the First Amendment, but they launched an investigation into his scholarly writings.

University officials say the faculty committees found a pattern of research misconduct that included plagiarism, fabricated research on Native Americans and an article Churchill wrote under someone else's name and then later cited it in support of his work.

Lane told jurors that Churchill did nothing wrong, but even if the research-misconduct allegations were true, the question they must answer is whether he was fired as retribution for the Sept. 11 essay.

Churchill testified last week that he didn't mean his comments to be hurtful to Sept. 11 victims. He said he was arguing that "if you make it a practice of killing other people's babies for personal gain ... eventually they're going to give you a taste of the same thing."

O'Rourke told the jurors the Eichmann essay wasn't the reason for Churchill's firing but it was still hateful speech.

"What you've heard is an effort to sanitize hatred and mask it as intellectual inquiry," he said.

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