Last week, two witnesses took the stand in the David Coppedge v. Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) lawsuit who have given some contradictory testimony in the case. We don’t have their trial testimony transcripts yet, but their deposition transcripts (also taken under oath, just like in the courtroom) are full of contradictions and inconsistencies.
Margaret Weisenfelder was one of the JPL employees who complained that Coppedge was harassing her by sharing intelligent design DVDs at work. During her deposition, Weisenfelder stated she doesn’t think it’s appropriate to discuss religion or politics during working hours:
“I don’t think that it’s appropriate to discuss religion or politics during working hours…” (Weisenfelder deposition, 32:17-21)
But she then admitted that when Coppedge’s supervisor Greg Chin showed cartoons that had “some political subject matter,” she wasn’t offended:
Q. Doesn’t Greg Chin show cartoons, slide shows, or something to that effect at staff meetings?
A. I have seen cartoons during Greg Chin’s staff meetings…
Q. …So you have seen those cartoons; right?
A. Yes I did.
Q. And they deal with political viewpoints sometimes, right?
A. There was some political subject matter.
Q. Did that offend you?
A. No. (137:13-24)
Bear in mind that Greg Chin was David Coppedge’s supervisor who yelled at him and ordered him to stop talking about intelligent design. Weisenfelder and Chin share similar political views–which are very different from those of David Coppedge. And incidentally, Weisenfelder never complained about Chin discussing politics at work.
Apparently Weisenfelder has no problem when political views are expressed at work, so long as she agrees with them. When someone expresses views she doesn’t agree with, then it’s not “appropriate to discuss … during working hours.”
Carmen Vetter was another JPL employee who complained against Coppedge because he asked that the word “Christmas” be emplaced on the holiday party flier. She also told inconsistent stories about her interactions with David.
During deposition testimony, Coppedge’s attorney, William Becker, asked Vetter if she had ever had conversations with David which were friendly and had nothing to do with politics or religion. Depending on when she was asked, she gave different answers.
At one point Vetter claimed that to the best of her recollection, “every time” she talked to David, “there was some mention of religion or some religious issue.” (Vetter Deposition, 168:14-16) But then in another instance she admitted that she had a nice conversation with David about pictures on his cubicle door–and she didn’t say there was any mention of religion during that conversation. (38:18-19)
Vetter not only couldn’t get her story straight about whether David always discussed religion, but she also had difficulty maintaining consistency about whether their conversations that did discuss religion always made her feel uncomfortable. At one point Vetter said that her first conversations with David about religion “were not uncomfortable.” (51:21-22) But when asked if she remembered having “had a conversation with David at some point about religion and he did not make you uncomfortable during that conversation” she later changed her answer to “No.” (66:13-17)
So which is it? Was she always “uncomfortable” or not?
It’s important to note that Vetter admitted she never told Coppedge she felt uncomfortable about discussing religion, and never asked him to stop broaching the subject with her. (66:18-22, 91:4-16, 104:14-17) So she never even gave David the chance to stop before she complained about him.
In fact, one major point about Coppedge’s interactions with Carmen Vetter was that at the time they occurred, she and Coppedge were both Christians, and so both of them had good reasons to expect neither would mind if religion came up. But Vetter gave inconsistent testimony about whether they both knew one-another were Christians.
At one point Vetter stated: “I recall talking to him about being Christians…” and said she believes they had “several” conversations about them both “being Christians.” (40:13-19) Later, however, she contradicted that claim, stating “I don’t know what David believes.” (48:18-20)
And then later she contradicted herself again, admitting that David did tell share his beliefs with her:
Q. Okay. So he did share his beliefs with you; right?
A. To the best of my recollection. (124:9-11)
But then she again contradicts herself saying she affirmatively never learned what David’s beliefs were: “I didn’t get to know it well enough to know what his belief system is. I don’t know.” (126:5-7)
So did she and David discuss their beliefs with one-another, or not? Sometimes she says yes. Sometimes she says no.
(If you’re wondering why Vetter would now testify against Coppedge that she was bothered by their conversations about religion if they’re both Christians, it turns out that during her deposition, Vetter said she’s no longer a Christian. She stated: “at this time,” she’s “basically what they call an agnostic.” (54:18-21))
As a final contradiction, when Vetter was asked if it’s correct that she told Greg Chin “that she and Scott [Edgington] had been bothered by David and his religious beliefs,” she replies “I don’t recall.” (164:10-16) But later she testified that she told Greg Chin that Scott Edgington had also been bothered by David Coppedge. (174:20-25)
Q. And do you recall whether or not you told Greg Chin in that conversation that Scott Edgington had also been bothered by David Coppedge?
A. Yes, I told him.
Q. Do you recall saying that?
A. Yes. (174:20-25)
What? Didn’t Vetter just say she didn’t recall if she ever told this to Chin?
While some of these contradictions are more important than others, with Carmen Vetter, you get the feeling that you’re listening to a heavily coached witness who has some concocted stories in her head but isn’t capable of keeping them all straight all of the time. Sometimes the truth might be coming out, but sometimes you get an alternate version of reality. Whatever the truth actually is, it sure seems like that Carmen Vetter isn’t always telling it straight.