Monday, October 15, 2007

Evidentiary Ruling in Johnson-Klein Case

The Fresno Bee reports that the judge in Stacy Johnson-Klein's case against Fresno State ruled some of the plaintiff's evidence inadmissible at a pretrial evidentiary hearing today. The ruling applied to a videotaped deposition testimony of former Fresno State men's basketball player Terry Pettis, who testified that he was allowed to play for Fresno State even though he failed a drug test.

The newspaper suggests that the reason it was excluded was that no one counseled Pettis of his right against self-incrimination.

The University's expected defense in this gender discrimination trial is that it fired Johnson-Klein, the women's basketball coach, not because of gender discrimination but because of a drug problem. Pettis's testimony, if it had been allowed, would have supported a counterargument that the drug problem rationale was a pretextual. Specifically, a jury might have concluded that if Fresno State retains a male athlete with a drug problem but terminates a female coach with a drug problem, the reason for termination is not drugs but gender.

It remains to be seen whether this ruling hurts Johnson-Klein's ability to convince the jury of Fresno State's discriminatory motives as the trial is still in jury selection phase. But soon the plaintiff will get to start calling witnesses, and we'll be able to better assess the strength of the case.

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