Chrysler, founded in 1925, formerly was known as DaimlerChrysler Corp. and is now owned by Cerebrus Capital Management LP and Daimler AG, the German manufacturer of Mercedes Benz automobiles. Chrysler's lawyers are trying to block prospective jurors from being asked to fill out written questionnaires that ask their opinions about the Holocaust, Israel and prejudice against Jews. The automaker says the questions on the forms "could influence and inflame the passions of prospective jurors" against Chrysler. Here is some of what the company's lawyers have written in a court filing:
"The following questions best illustrate the point that Semco is inapproprately attempting to use a Court-administered document to influence the prospective jurors for the singular goal of seeking insight into how receptive the jurors will be to Semco's theories in this case:
- Question 13: There has been some controversy over the Holocaust recently. What are your feelings about how the Holocaust has been portrayed in history?
- Question 14: How have events in Israel and the Middle East over the years affected your feelings about the Jewish people?
- Question 16: Some people blieve that Jewish people have way too much power in government, the banking system, and other areas of US life. What do you think about this?
- Question 17: What are your feelings about the Jewish faith?
- Question 19: Do you think harassment of or prejudice against Jewish people in the US is a serious problem today?
- Question 20: How significant a problem do you think prejudice against Jewish people is in this part of Ohio?"
Chrysler's lawyer, Heidi N. Eischen of Toledo, seemed particularly disturbed about the Holocaust question. She called it "designed to evoke an intellectual, emotional, or ethical response in the prospective jurors and to conjure mental images of Nazi Germany, Hitler, and mass murder. The only conceivable purpose of submitting this question and questions like it to prospective jurors is to cause them to associate Chrysler with those negative mental images and to stimulate feelings of sympathy for Jewish people and the plaintiff. Including such a grossly inflamatory and prejudicial topic in a Court-administered document is inappropriate."
The lawsuit is Semco Inc. vs. Chrysler LLC, Case No. 2:06-CV-0784 in the Southern District of Ohio. Semco landed the contract with Chrysler's Kokomo, Ind., die-casting plant in 1993. It lost the business in 2005. Chrysler contends discrimination had nothing to do with its decision. The contract was valuable -- court records show Semco sold $709,628.15 worth of parts to the Kokomo Casting Plant in 2003.