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Judge in Dover Case Skewers Barbara Forrest’s “Expert” Report; Says Much of It Looks Like “inadmissible hearsay,” and that “it read[s] like a magazine article,” Not Expert Testimony

UPDATED 9.29.05/5:38pm (by Rob Crowther): Interestingly, we recently stumbled across this surprisingly prescient interview with Dr. Forrest, and in light of her recent notoriety due to her “expert” testimony for the Dover trial we thought that readers would like to read the transcript.

Two weeks before the Dover trial began, the Judge in the case skewered the “expert” witness report submitted to the Court by Louisiana professor Barbara Forrest, a long-time board member of the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association. Forrest’s report is mostly a rehash of the innuendos and conspiracy-mongering found in her book with Paul Gross, “Creationism’s Trojan Horse.” While Forrest’s potpourri of smears and overheated rhetoric is typically accepted uncritically by reporters, Judge John Jones has put the ACLU on notice that significant portions of Prof. Forrest’s expert report may be declared

inadmissable in his court of law. Here’s an account of the amazing dressing-down the Judge gave the ACLU according to the official transcript of the hearing on September 9:

THE COURT: …Within Ms. Forrest’s testimony, I see repeated references to quotes that were apparently derived from magazine articles and third persons that look to me to be inadmissible hearsay…

…if… we’re going to have Ms. Forrest take the stand, or Professor Forrest, I should say, I guess, take the stand and if she is going to rely on hearsay, extracted hearsay statements from articles or narratives, I think we have a problem.

That’s not to say that she can’t testify as to — if, in fact, we get to this point and if I find it relevant, and that’s another issue altogether, and I don’t think we have to address it here — that’s not to say that she couldn’t testify if it’s otherwise relevant to what the scope of the report appears to be, which is a — sort of panoply of what intelligent design has been over the course that she’s looked at it or the course that she examined it.

But these extracted statements by individuals I think are problematic. Tell me why they’re not if you view it otherwise.

MR. ROTHSCHILD: I do, Your Honor. First of all, what she is basically doing is a history of a —and I say this reluctantly — an intellectual movement.

THE COURT: Well, and it read like a magazine article to me. I might find it interesting and others might find it even entertaining, but for the purpose of an expert report, I’ll bet she hasn’t probably testified many times, if at all, as an expert witness.

And the fact it has these quotes, that it is rife with these quotes, which not only present hearsay issues but also could be taken out of context and could otherwise be objectionable, I’m simply putting you on notice that either you’ve got to contour the report to — contour her testimony, not the report, to address that, or I think you’re going to get repeated objections.

And I think, unless you come up with something that is pretty remarkable, those objections could be sustained to the extent, again, not as to the general scope of her report, but as to these extracted quotes by individuals from unverified sources.

They’re not from treatises. A lot of them were taken out of news articles, it appears to me, magazines, other things. Why isn’t that hearsay?

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.