Although the reason for the retraction may sound run-of-the-mill, this situation is far from ordinary.
The author, known as DMan Johnson — or simply “D.J.” — has cerebral palsy, and was communicating using a controversial technique called “facilitated communication” with Anna Stubblefield, the former chairwoman of philosophy at Rutgers University. In October 2015, Stubblefield was convicted of sexually assaulting D.J., who has been diagnosed with spastic quadriplegia and severe mental retardation. The following month, she was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Last month, the journal retracted the 2011 article “The Role of Communication in Thought” by DJ, “due to major overlap with a previously published work” in a different journal by the same author (and with the same title).
From the start, Stubblefield claimed that “D.J.,” as he’s known in court documents, consented to their affair through what’s called “facilitated communication.” That is to say, he typed out his words on a portable keyboard, with her hand supporting his and pulling back against his frequent muscle spasms. At trial, though, the state convinced a jury that Stubblefield’s efforts at facilitated communication had been a sham—that Stubblefield was the true author of D.J.’s keyboard messages, whether she realized it or not. That meant her romance with D.J. had been at best a reckless Ouija-board delusion and at worst a knowing fraud.
Stubblefield maintains the two were in love. As explained in a lengthy 2015 New York Times piece:
D.J. can neither talk nor dress himself, but Anna argued that he was able to communicate using a keyboard, as long as she was there to hold his hand and give support.
Because the judge excluded most evidence relating to facilitated communication, the case is now being appealed:
Before the trial started, [the judge] had ruled that Stubblefield’s lawyers could not introduce any text at all from D.J.’s keyboard, nor could they ask any witness other than Stubblefield herself to describe D.J.’s typing or what it appeared to say. They couldn’t have their own experts in FC—including the method’s inventor, Rosemary Crossley—testify as to the method’s value. And, perhaps most importantly, they could not introduce nor even reference Crossley’s own assessment of D.J.’s intelligence, captured on video across three days and 12 hours in early January 2014.
A hearing took place in early April, and court has 90 days from then to make a ruling.
Here’s the complete notice from DSQ, which is not indexed by Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters:
The Editors-in-Chief retract the article entitled “The Role of Communication in Thought” published in Disability Studies Quarterly, 2011, 31 (4), http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v31i4.1717
Our decision to retract is due to major overlap with a previously published work: Johnson, DMan (2011). “The Role of Communication in Thought.” The Communicator 20(1): 4-5. http://www.autcom.org/pdf/AutcomNLWinter2011.pdf
The original article was published on October 25, 2011, and was retracted on April 18, 2017.
The retracted article will remain online to maintain the scholarly record, and will be marked as retracted.
The editor-in-chief declined to comment further on the retraction.
Hat tip: Michael Dougherty
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