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."