Monday, February 27, 2006

Fumbling Marks First Day of Stem Cell Trial

It was a $6 billion playbill, but if you wanted good theater, you couldn't find it on Monday.

At issue is the existence of the California stem cell agency, which some conservative and Christian right organizations are seeking to terminate.

Their basic contention is that CIRM, created by voters through approval of a ballot initiative in a constitutionally authorized process, is actually unconstitutional because the agency is purportedly not under the control and exclusive management of the state.

The case of the CIRM foes moved slowly on Monday with fumbling over exhibits and evidence, tedious readings of long and short documents and a lengthy opening statement that tested the patience of Alameda Superior Court Judge Bonnie Lewman Sabraw.

No new ground was broken and about the only surprise was that the plaintiffs said they would base their case solely on exhibits.

Late in the day, they summoned stem cell chairman Robert Klein to answers questions about the meaning of CIRM documents. One series of questions attempted to clear up whether he was responding for CIRM, the Oversight Committee or simply as chairman. Another line of questioning, ultimately dropped, involved the meaning of "categories" and "programs."

At one point, attorney David Llewellyn, representing the California Family Bioethics Council, read a segment of the ballot analysis of Prop. 71 to Klein.

"Did I read that correctly," he asked Klein.

"Yes, you read it correctly," Klein responded.

Llewellyn apologized early to the judge for not having his exhibits in order.

Speaking for CIRM was Tamar Pachter, deputy state attorney general, who gave a 15-minute opening statement, the only presentation made by the defense in the day-long proceedings.

She denied that the agency, which will cost California $6 billion, was unconstitutional. She said the voters used their constitutional powers through the initiative process to "tear down barriers" and "strike directly through to their desired end." Pachter said CIRM opponents were using a "tortured interpretation of the (state) constitution" to support their case.

Following the day's proceedings, Mike Claeys of the Alliance for Stem Cell Research said he was "astonished by the lack of coherent arguments" and the "level of disorganization" of the plaintiffs.

CIRM's opponents did seem ill-prepared and poorly organized. But this was day one in the nonjury trial, which is certain to be appealed and ultimately not resolved for another 12 months or so. And a fumbling, country-boy routine may be part of the strategy.

Outside of the courtroom, four Bay Area TV stations collected sound bites from all the principals, including Llewellyn, who sounded crisper and more on message than he was in the courtroom. We understand that at least two radio stations covered the affair along with the usual gaggle of print reporters, but none from out of state.

What appears on TV is not likely to reflect courtroom fumbling, but rather the interviews in the corridors with Llewellyn and his fellow attorneys as well as with Klein and his supporters including four who showed up in wheelchairs.

It is the second venue for CIRM. It needs to win both in court and with the public.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:12 PM

    Hey mommy (tamar pachter) you did really well


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