Juror: One Holdout Forced $1 Award For Churchill

Jurors Could Have Given Churchill $110K Or More

A member of the jury that found the University of Colorado wrongly fired professor Ward Churchill says five of the six jurors wanted to award him $110,000 or more.

But one juror insisted Churchill get no money in his lawsuit claiming violation of his First Amendment rights.

Juror Bethany Newill told 7NEWS she thinks Churchill deserved something to cover legal costs and lost pay. But she said one holdout, whom she didn't name, believed Churchill ruined his own reputation and at one point asked to be removed from the jury.

Jurors settled on the symbolic award of $1 when delivering their verdict Thursday after a trial of nearly four weeks.

The jury found that the CU board of regents fired Churchill in retaliation for a controversial essay he wrote about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He likened the World Trade Center victims to "little Eichmanns," a reference to Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi leader who orchestrated the Holocaust.

The essay was written in 2001 but attracted little attention until 2005, when critics publicized it after he was invited to speak at Hamilton College in upstate New York.

University officials concluded Churchill couldn't be fired because of his First Amendment rights, but launched an investigation of his academic research after allegations of plagiarism and fabrication surfaced.

After investigations, Churchill was fired on those allegations in 2007. The former tenured ethnic studies professor at CU-Boulder sued, saying he wanted his job back.

University officials said the firing was justified.

Juror Newill, 24, a Waste Management Inc. sales worker, said she respected that Churchill stood up for what he believes in and thinks he should be compensated.

"I just felt that, if we had found that he was fired wrongfully, we should at least compensate him. . . . That's why I thought: $110,000 at the minimum," Newill said.

Churchill told the Daily Camera that the jury's verdict should be interpreted as urging the judge to reinstate him at CU. He said he was unfazed by the $1 in damages.

"That was a grand slam. I got everything I wanted from them," Churchill said Friday. "I wasn't looking for money."

Churchill will seek to have CU pay cover his legal expenses, which could top $1 million.

The university estimates it has spent more than $500,000 in defense of the lawsuit.

Churchill's attorney, David Lane, said he will file a motion in 30 days asking Denver Chief District Judge Larry Naves to give Churchill his job back.

CU officials declined to say whether they'll oppose reinstatement. CU would have to establish that Churchill's return would result in acrimony that would be disruptive.

"Judge Naves ran a fair trial, and we believe that he'll continue to be fair through these next steps," said CU spokesman Ken McConnellogue.

Legal experts disagree on his chances of being reinstated.

Defense attorney Scott Robinson told the Boulder Daily Camera Churchill should get his job back. He said anything less would be tantamount to "rejecting the verdict."

The judge "has to uphold the verdict in a way that makes sense," Robinson told the Camera.

However, Martin Katz, of DU's Sturm College of Law said the judge will have to rule if reinstating Churchill, with all the acrimony surrounding his history with the university, would be so disruptive as to create non-stop infighting.

"As a judge, I would want to know how much Churchill -- if reinstated -- would rub that in the university's face or in the faces of his colleagues," Katz told the Camera. "I wouldn't want to put the employer in an untenable situation, especially when there's an easy alternative. That is, give him money."

CU spokesman Ken McConnellogue said the school hasn't decided how it will approach the reinstatement hearing.

"We're considering our options and awaiting the next step from the judge," he said.

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