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It's here! The final day of the Dover Panda Trial!

The Panda trial wound up Friday, finally. The judge said he hopes to render a decision by the end of the year. So for now, we'll have to make do with the closing arguments and just one more mention of bacterial flagella and the Big Bang.
By MIKE ARGENTO

HARRISBURG — As the Dover Panda Trial finally wound down, federal Judge John E. Jones III took a few moments to thank everybody.

After almost six weeks, 21 days of trial, 40 days overall, it was time to make nice.

The judge thanked the courthouse staff and his staff and the lawyers and the public, saying that everybody afforded the momentous events that had transpired in courtroom No. 2 with the “solemnity and dignity” they so rightly deserved.

I really, really hope he wasn’t talking about me.

Just from memory, it seems that I have worked in more comments about sex, mammary glands and bestiality than one would expect in coverage of a trial with serious ramifications in education, science and constitutional law regarding the separation of church and state.

What can I say?

I just don’t know any better.

Friday began with the courtroom packed in great anticipation of the last day of this historic trial — a 21st century replay of the Scopes Monkey Trial, except without the monkey. Every seat was taken. The press was out in full force for the first time since the beginning of the trial. The place practically throbbed.

The judge entered and called the proceedings to order and the trial resumed where it left off Thursday afternoon, with defense expert Scott Minnich, a microbiologist and a proponent of intelligent design, continuing to bore the snot out of everybody within a 10-mile radius.

That thinned the herd a bit.

Actually, it wasn’t so bad. He did get to testify about how intelligent design supporters pretty much have the same approach as creationists and that the intelligent designer could be one creator or two creators or three or a whole family of creators, sort of like The Partridge Family, except, I would suspect, without the substance-abuse problems.

And he testified about an article that said creationists who hadn’t flocked to intelligent design as a means of getting around the U.S. Supreme Court’s prohibition on teaching creationism were kind of ticked off that ID proponents had stolen the bacterial flagellum from them and the creationists think the ID people are “misguided.”

As I’ve noted previously, these guys love the bacterial flagellum and we weren’t going to get away Friday without hearing more about it.

Or the Big Bang.

Those guys love the Big Bang too.

But we’re past all of that.

It was time for the big finale.

Kind of.

First, the lawyers and the judge had to handle some complicated evidentiary matters involving matters of law and the federal hearsay rules — which really is as dull as it sounds. At one point, Witold Walczak, the ACLU lawyer, brought up a point by beginning, “Just to complicate things...”

The judge interrupted: “Good!”

Then, it was time for closing arguments. Eric Rothschild, representing the plaintiffs, went first.

One of his best moments was when he got to show the video of former school board member Bill Buckingham being interviewed on TV and talking about creationism. Buckingham denied ever mentioning creationism and when the tape showed he had, he said the report ambushed him and he was “like a deer in the headlights.” Funny, the reporter told people later that she had called Buckingham to set up the time for the interview.

Anyway, on the tape, Buckingham looks pretty relaxed.

Rothschild said, “That was no deer in the headlights. That deer was wearing shades and was totally at ease.”

And then, he got to the crux of the matter. He said as much as it pains him to mention it, many of the witnesses for the defense did not tell the truth.

Buckingham, for one.

Bonsell, for another.

Oh, pretty much all of them.

He also mentioned board member Sheila Harkins and how it’s kind of hard to tell what her deal was, which is the general impression she leaves in her wake.

Pat Gillen closed for the defendants and he tried. He argued that the judge should narrow the issues of the trial in order to give intelligent design and the defendants a chance of prevailing.

Oh, and the whole thing is Buckingham’s fault — Buckingham and his big OxyContin-fueled mouth. (Yes, he did mention Buckingham’s OxyContin addiction for what seemed like the 20th time.)

On a final note, as Rothschild began his closing, he had a quotation projected on the screen in the courtroom. It was an excerpt of the testimony of one of the plaintiffs, Fred Callahan, president of Colony Papers.

And what he said perfectly sums up this entire exercise.

“What am I supposed to tolerate? A small encroachment on my First Amendment rights? Well, I’m not going to. I think this is clear what these people have done. And it outrages me.”

Fred, all I got to say is, may the intelligent designer bless you.

(Read more Mike Argento at Argento's Front Stoop - he covered the whole trial (among his other musings).

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