Biased Journalism Vol. 4, issue 4

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Biased Journalism Volume 4, Number 4 Thursday May 7, 1998 Contents:
  1. Special Bulletin #3, Keith Henson Trial Day Three!

Read at your own risk. This is Biased Journalism!


Action started at 8 am. precisely on time. Sam Rosen led off with a complaint that someone was trying to corrupt the jury. The San Jose Mercury had run articles critical of Scientology on three days (counting the same article twice, which they thriftily ran in both the San Jose and the Peninsula editions. Rosen said he planned to ask for an evidentiary hearing. Judge Whyte just looked at him.

The evidentiary hearing concept went no further today, but we guess it will come up later.

Rosen went on without a pause to complain that Whyte's remark to the jury about not accepting literature, would logically make the jury think that RTC had been responsible. "Oh, come on," Whyte said.

Rosen did not quite ask that Whyte tell the jury it had been Henson's doing. He proposed that Whyte tell the jury that neither party had been responsible, although this was not actually true. Whyte refused.

These items were groundwork apparently. Rosen went right on to say that the jury would probably be corrupted if they were released for 3 days as the current schedule would have it. Instead of quitting at noon, per the current schedule, why don't we just keep going until we're done?

Berry objected. Whyte tersely refused to alter the schedule.

A slew of RTC exhibits were under consideration. Whyte expressed concern that the trail was getting away from the main issues; it was not about smearing Henson, or whether scientology is a good or bad religion, etc. Rosen replied smugly that the jury had a right to know what kind of man Mr. Henson is.

Then Henson took the stand again. Rosen was at his most overbearing. His apparent strategy was to play on the jury's ignorance of the Internet, by grilling Henson on posts which were followups using subject lines created by other persons and similar strategies.

It was a badgering, adversarial strategy. If Rosen didn't like Henson's answer he shouted over it. If Henson felt he was being mischaracterized, he shouted back. Judge Whyte stopped the proceedings numerous times to admonish Rosen and to tell Henson to just answer the question.

There was no more funny business with the video cueing, however.

We judged that Rosen's strategy consisted of calling Henson a liar repeatedly in situations where the truth could not be determined by the jury, namely, with reference to usenet posts. An experienced reader can easily tell who said what by following the >>'s. An experienced reader knows that threads are conversations on the net. The jury in general could not know this.

The situation improved substantially when Graham Berry took over the questioning. Berry led Henson through a careful explanation of elements of usenet culture, such as threads and trolls. Rosen took to squeaking his chair loudly at critical moments.

The real battle concerned what Henson could talk about. In the course of the day the limits were narrowly drawn by Judge Whyte. Henson can explain what led him to post NOTS 34, and things that affected his state of mind at the time, with reference to NOTS 34. He cannot discuss scientology in general.

On the other hand, he would appear to be free to discuss his beliefs about scientology medical practices, the e-meter, auditing and kindred issues. (This clearly will not occur without multiple objections from Rosen.)

Berry carefully retrieved each of Rosen's points and led Henson through an explanation which he had not been allowed to give earlier. This produced the high point of the day. Following up on Rosen's attack on Henson for bad language, Berry asked Henson whether he really believed that lawyers who represented scientology were prostituting their profession-- legal whores. Did he believe that about the scientology lawyers in this courtroom? (The lawyers in the audience all sat up.) "Yes I do," Henson said with ringing sincerity.

Body count: there were fewer RTC supporters than yesterday. We estimated about a dozen, mostly the core group of lawyers and paralegals. Darlene Bright, Mark and the chunky blonde represented the San Jose org. The net was represented by one net citizen and one reporter.

Stats: it's an even call whether Rosen's belligerent attitude worked against him, or whether his accusations against Henson counted with the jury. They may have counted because Henson had no defense at the time Rosen made the accusations.

On the other hand, Judge Whyte repeatedly admonished Rosen for asking two questions at once, viz. "have you quit beating your wife? Yes or no." The jury must have noticed Rosen's dubious strategems.

It is our sense that the jury is reserving judgment. A good part of Graham Berry's case is yet to come.

We must not omit the big news. Warren McShane, who had been scheduled to testify, will not be heard from. There are likely reasons for this decision. If RTC elects not to present McShane, Berry cannot call him independently. Therefore Berry cannot impeach him and cannot use him to introduce the fair game policy. It is also the case that because of the slow pace of events, McShane loses the opportunity to testify in the Swedish trial (Zenon Panoussis) if he remains to deal with Henson.

It looks to us like the church was nervous about letting Berry question McShane. If he were successfully impeached, it could affect all their US cases.

How will his absence affect this jury? We guess it will diminsh RTC's case. They will have only the unlikeable Mr. Rosen to refer to. Graham Berry can make telling points with further questioning of Henson and his final argument.

The trial will resume on Monday afternoon. Judge Whyte anticipates that the presentation of evidence will be completed then. On Tuesday morning both parties will make their concluding statements and Judge Whyte's instructions will be presented to the jury. (We guess that this will be a fractious proceeding.)

At some time Tuesday the case will be given to the jury.

We will publish a long article about this trial with a play-by-play account of these events. Meanwhile we will publish a bulletin summarizing the major action of the day.

Fireworks are yet to come. There were multiple sidebar conferences at which heated interactions took place. Graham Berry is a fighter. If he shows this fighting spirit to the jury, the outcome could be good.

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