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11477News item - NOVA to air 2-hour program on ID trial

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  • Todd S. Greene
    Jul 27, 2007
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      NOVA to air 2-hour program on ID trial
      By Tom Joyce
      (York Daily Record, 7/25/2007)

      Two-hour special, set to air Nov. 13, will feature re-enactments,
      interviews with those who witnessed the trial.

      U.S. Middle District Court Judge John E. Jones III, who presided over
      the Dover intelligent design trial in 2005, said he now has mixed
      feelings about his decision to bar television cameras from the

      He said that the general consensus among federal judges these days is
      that their proceedings shouldn't be televised. And yet Jones himself
      has to admit that it was a great show.

      "I thought in retrospect that the lawyering was so good and the
      witnesses were so impactful, positive and negative, that the public
      should have seen it," Jones said.

      In November, members of the public will be able to see what went on
      in the courtroom - or at least a detailed re-enactment of it. On Nov.
      13, the PBS science program NOVA will air a two-hour special devoted
      to the topic called "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial."

      Executive producer Paula Apsell said that NOVA episodes typically run
      half that time, but they thought this story was too complex to
      present in an hour.

      The episode is still in production, Apsell said, but plans for it
      include interviews with people who witnessed or participated in the
      proceedings, including Jones, former school board member Bill
      Buckingham and former York Daily Record reporter Lauri Lebo.

      The program will also feature actors re-enacting what took place in
      the courtroom, based on transcripts of the proceedings.

      Apsell said that NOVA was drawn to the story because the controversy
      and its resolution have broad implications beyond the Dover Area
      School District. The trial also served as excellent science
      instruction, she said, with a thorough explanation of evolution
      taking place in the courtroom as part of the testimony.

      "This is a scientific, a religious, and also a very, very personal
      issue," Apsell said.

      Jones recently traveled to Beverly Hills for an annual conference
      where TV critics get a preview of the next season's programming. He
      sat on a panel to discuss the trial with Ken Miller, a Brown
      University professor who served as one of the plaintiffs' expert
      witnesses, and Bertha Spahr, head of the district's science

      Jones said that, since he delivered his decision in the case, he's
      become used to being recognized. People still contact him frequently
      about it. Although some of them criticize him, harshly at times, he
      estimates that 90 percent of the response has been positive.

      Still, Jones said, it was disorienting when he walked into the lobby
      of the venue where the conference was held and saw a poster featuring
      a scowling figure in black robes, sitting in a vaguely familiar

      "You're startled at first," he said. "Then you realize that's
      supposed to be you."