College of Media | News

Journalism professor Chris Benson served as expert witness in discrimination case

11/2/2010  5:00 pm

Christopher Benson, associate professor of journalism, recently served as an expert witness in a "noose" case tried in federal district court in Champaign County. The case, Barbee v. Christy-Foltz, Inc., involved the display of two hangman's nooses in the workplace at Christy-Foltz, a Decatur-based general contractor. The employer removed the nooses, but took no further action to investigate or in any way discipline responsible white employees, despite concerns expressed by Lawrence Barbee, an African American employee. Benson testified about the symbolic meaning of a noose in the workplace, drawing on the history of spectacle lynchings and more recent widely publicized events to show that the nooses in this case were meant as a threat to Barbee, who had stepped out of his socially assigned place. The all-white jury returned a verdict in favor of Mr. Barbee, with an award for pain and suffering and punitive damages.