He's prepared for the first line of his obituary to reference his presiding over the Dover intelligent design trial.

That doesn't bother federal Judge John E. Jones III, because he's satisfied with the job he did.

And while he would be perfectly content if he never has a high-profile case again, he's taking in stride the seemingly surreal series of events in his life that culminated a year ago today when he issued his Dover decision.

In his answer to the first legal challenge to the teaching of intelligent design, Jones decided the movement is based on religion, not science.

In 139 pages, he became a hero, a villain and a celebrity.

Last Christmas, U.S. marshals protected his home because he received threats.

Critics of his decision have labeled him an activist judge, and he is the subject of some unflattering Internet cartoons, one of which was created by a well-known supporter of intelligent design.

Conservative authors and pundits have disparaged his decision, despite his being a Republican who was appointed to the bench by President
George W. Bush.

Last week, the Discovery Institute, an organization that supports the teaching of intelligent design, accused Jones of copying much of the text of one section of his ruling from the American Civil Liberties Union.

ACLU attorneys stepped to Jones' defense, saying it is common practice for judges to use portions of proposed findings of fact in their rulings.


While Jones hasn't issued comment on the Discovery Institute's accusations, he defended his decision a few days before it released a report comparing the two documents.

"At the end of the day, I feel very satisfied that I did what judges are supposed to do," he said. "I called the case the way I saw it based on the facts that were presented."

He said he didn't have any pre-conceived ideas about science and religion going into the case, which "established in my mind that judges can appropriately handle complex scientific issues given the testimony from appropriate experts such as we had ... in this particular case."

How history will treat his decision and the case is based on a variety of factors, none of which are under his control, he said.

"There was a lot of drama associated with the case," he said. "It was sort of small town American, sometimes literally neighbor against neighbor. Are there enduring lessons in that? I don't know, but in its time, that time being 2005, 2004, I can understand why it caught the attention of the public and the media."

The odds weren't good -- a little bit better than one in six -- that Jones would be randomly assigned to the Dover intelligent design case.

He was driving home from Harrisburg's federal courthouse on Dec. 14, 2004, when he heard a Harrisburg radio station's top news story; a group of parents had filed a federal suit -- an Establishment Clause challenge -- against their school district.

The judge still has the distinct recollection of thinking, while traveling on Interstate 81 toward his Pottsville home, that he really didn't know what intelligent design was, even though he considers himself well-read.

He also wondered idly which of the six federal judges in Harrisburg would get the case.

The next morning would answer both of his questions. He was assigned the case, and "what intelligent design was" would be up to him to decide.

With a large percentage of cases settling out of court, the odds of a trial also weren't very good.

But after his first scheduling conference with attorneys from both sides, it became clear that settlement wasn't an option.

"There was sort of a gaggle of attorneys on both sides," Jones said. "And their body language absolutely conveyed that this was very serious, and as they began to speak it was quite clear to me it would be futile to take them into chambers and discuss settlement.

"I remember that day being left with the inescapable conclusion that we were going to have a trial. And it was going to be a long trial and it was going to be sooner rather than later."

It was January 2005. The trial started before fall had gone.

Forty days and 40 nights.

That was the duration of the trial, as one attorney observed when it was over.

On the first day, Jones drove up to the courthouse to find it ringed with television trucks, satellites antennas reaching upward.

The courtroom was packed with national and local media and sketch artists.

He had to tamp down his apprehension a little that morning. But after that, it was a trial. And the same old rules of evidence still applied.

Both sides were sincere, he said.

"And there was a certain decorum that pervaded the proceedings that I appreciated," he said. "Everyone had a feeling they were involved in something pretty momentous in its time. They conducted themselves, generally, with a few exceptions, as witnesses should."

Jones said there was no defining moment or specific testimony that stood out above others.

There was no eureka, no epiphany. He reserved his judgment throughout the case.

There was impressive lawyering, some testimony Jones suspects law students will study some day.

And there were also days that Jones had just about all he could take in terms of the intricate scientific testimony, he said.

Trial-goers noticed that mornings filled with talk of bacterial flagellum and complex scientific concepts often brought afternoons with a big white cup sitting in front of Jones at the bench.

Starbucks coffee, regular, with a little bit of Sweet and Low.

"Life has its small rewards and pleasures, and that was one that I afforded myself in the afternoons, a shot of caffeine to get me through," he said.

At a sidebar one day, he joked that if he faced the Starbucks logo toward the crowd of media and spectators in the courtroom, "I could get some compensation for product placement."

Jones' detractors have been met by a like number of supporters.

His calendar is booked with speaking engagements though the middle of 2007, mainly from people asking him to speak about judicial independence.

People have been downloading copies of his decision and asking him to autograph them.

The first time it happened, at a speaking engagement in Kansas, a line of people formed, decisions in hand.

"I said, 'You really want me to do this?'" he said. He asked if they intended to sell the document "for 10 bucks on eBay."

"They didn't laugh because they were serious," he said. "They wanted that for posterity. ... I wasn't going to, but they were so sincere about it, I thought, 'Why not?'"

Jones was listed as one of Fast Company magazine's "Fast 50" list of people who are "writing the history of the next 10 years," as well as one of Wired News' "10 Sexiest Geeks" of 2005.

He was also named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people of 2005, an honor that got him invited to a soiree where he and his wife met the Queen of Jordan, Jennifer Lopez, Will Smith and Stephen Colbert.

He said he's reluctant to share stories about the party because "the Discovery Institute will say, 'Here's star-struck Judge Jones.'"

But he gives in.

"Stephen Colbert ... was moving quickly (around the room) and he sort of arrived in front of me and he said, 'Judge Jones,' and I started laughing because I think he's funny.

"And I said, 'Stephen Colbert.'

"Then, squinting his eyes, he said, 'Intelligent design: Seemed like a good idea at the time, didn't it?'

"And I said, 'I guess it did.'"

-- Reach Christina Kauffman at 505-5436 or ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.
Dover timeline
--- June 7, 2004: Members of the Dover Area school board, unhappy with the 2002 edition of the biology textbook Prentice Hall Biology, said they wanted to include creationism in biology classes.

--- Oct. 18, 2004: Dover becomes the first school district in the nation to explicitly require mentioning intelligent design as an alternative "theory" to evolution.

Board members Casey Brown and her husband, Jeff Brown, voted against the policy and announced that they would resign because they disagreed with the decision and believed the board would be sued for violating the First Amendment.

--- Dec. 14, 2004: Eleven parents joined with the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State to file a federal lawsuit against the board, claiming it had religious motives for putting the intelligent design policy in place.

--- Sept. 26, 2005: The trial started in a federal courthouse in Harrisburg. As testimony for the parents began, attorneys called biologist, Prentice Hall textbook author and Brown University professor Kenneth Miller, to testify.

--- Oct. 16, 2005: The school district and its board began presenting its case. First to testify was biochemist and Lehigh University professor Michael Behe, who said intelligent design is viable science.

--- Nov. 4, 2005: Closing arguments and end of trial.

--- Dec. 20, 2005: U.S. Middle District Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design is not a scientific theory and it should not be taught in public school. He also ordered the Dover Area School District and its board to repeal its policy that mandates mention of the controversial movement in science classes.

In a 139-page, strongly worded opinion, the judge said that Darwin's theory of evolution isn't perfect, but nonetheless found that intelligent design is rooted in creationism and violates the separation of church and state.

Intelligent design says living things are so complicated they had to have been created by a higher being, that life is too complex to have developed through evolution as described by 19th-century English biologist Charles Darwin.

The school district was later billed $1 million in legal fees and an additional $11 compensation to the plaintiffs, who got $1 each.
What they have to say now
"From the time the trial ended until the decision came out ... it was never out of my mind. It was life-defining. I never ever thought I'd be in a position like that or do anything like that. We go places (with the American Civil Liberties Union) and we're rock stars and heroes. It's bizarre.

"I have 10 friends in Dover that there's something there that we'll always have. I think in the end, we made Dover a better place."
Plaintiff/parent Steven Stough
"I guess I just hope with all of this that has happened that people realize the importance of sound science. If this all had to have happened for a reason, I hope it was that people walk away with a realization of what evolution means to all of the sciences.

"I hope it's a wake-up call for science teachers. Evolution is really downplayed in American schools. It's diluted for fear that it's going to offend someone. ... If this country keeps dumbing it down just to appease a small group of religious zealots, we're doing a great disservice to the students."

Plaintiff/parent Cyndi Sneath
"It obviously changed my life. It shoved me in the forefront of the media, which obviously was new. It's humbling to see how often the case has been case cited. I went to see the Darwin exhibit at the Franklin (Institute) exhibit and saw (the case) written on the timeline there.

"It was an experience I never expected to have in my life, but one that I wouldn't change."

Lead plaintiff/parent Tammy Kitzmiller
"The experience of participating in the trial was unlike anything I've ever done in my life. It was extraordinary to become a part of the team of people. (Meeting the plaintiffs) was remarkable. It gave the case a personal aspect that made it different from just defending science or arguing against intelligent design. These were real people who were affected in a real way by what was happening in Dover.

"As the case wore on, it became more and more apparent that we were becoming part of history with the Dover case. When the trial was going on, I had no idea how far-reaching the trial and the opinion would turn out to be. I now realize how many people were following this trial and how important it was for scientists and educators all across the country. ... It exposed the creationist roots of intelligent design and the complete lack of scientific support of the intelligent design movement, and in many ways exposed the duplicity of people involved in the intelligent design movement."

Biologist, textbook author and
Brown University professor Kenneth Miller,
who testified for the plaintiffs
"(The trial) was an unusual experience for a philosopher ... you don't expect to end up in a courtroom. I regard my involvement ... as a civic duty. As a citizen, it's probably the most gratifying thing I have ever done.

"The legacy of the case was the judge's decision. I think any future legal cases that come up ... they're gonna read that decision. If this case had come up differently it would be 'Katy bar the door' (because creationists would push for the teaching of intelligent design).

"It was very clear to everyone who followed the case that intelligent design is not science. The Discovery Institute has been trying for years to foment a court case. And they finally got one dropped in their laps and what was ironic is they didn't want it. They knew what this case would do to them."

Intelligent design historian
Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy
at Southeastern Louisiana University who
testified for the plaintiffs about the
history of the intelligent design movement
"In the long run, I don't think it (the trial) means much. The question is decided by science, not by a judge. As a legal matter, I think conflicts such as this will be around for a long time, frankly because a large portion of the population smells a rat (in relation to evolution).

"(Testifying) was daunting and at once exhilarating. I very much enjoyed the back and forth in the courtroom. ... I felt my own testimony went very much better than the opinion reflects.

"The worst part for me was reading the judge's opinion and seeing my testimony ignored and words put into my mouth essentially.

"That really ... kind of knocked me for a loop. I thought we presented a good case and he was unconvinced by it."

Behe said he continues to find evidence for intelligent design.

"The judge saying that things look rosy for Darwinism doesn't make it so," he said. "The judge can rule that the moon is made of green cheese, but that doesn't stop investigations into what it is really made of."

Biochemist and Lehigh University
professor Michael Behe, who testified
for the defense
Editor's Note: Alan Bonsell, Bill Buckingham and Sheila Harkins, former Dover board members who voted in favor of having intelligent design mentioned in science class, did not return phone calls for comment.
-- Staff writer Christina Kauffman