A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: Annie Le

Did Yale University Fail To Prevent Murder?

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By Jessica McElroy

In September 2009, the wedding of Annie Le, a 24-year old pharmacology student at Yale School of Medicine and her fiancé, Jonathan Widawsky, was cancelled.  Ms. Le had been missing for more than three days.

Two days later, on the very day they had planned to get married, Ms. Le’s body was found stuffed inside a basement wall of the Amistad Street Building in New Haven, Connecticut, a research lab owned and operated by Yale University.

An autopsy later found that Ms. Le had suffered severe bruising and bleeding as well as fractures in her jaw and collarbone. She had been beaten and strangled by Raymond Clark III who later submitted an Alford plea to the charges of sexual assault – not admitting his guilt but acknowledging that the prosecution has enough evidence to make a conviction. He is currently serving a 44-year sentence for murder.

The New York Daily News reported that Ms. Le’s family has filed a lawsuit in a New Haven Superior Court naming Yale University and Yale School of Medicine as defendants.  The lawsuit accuses Yale of creating “a tolerance that allowed and encouraged aggressive male behavior towards women” and an environment that “emboldened” Mr. Clark to commit murder.  The suit also claims that Yale was negligent in hiring Mr. Clark and allowing him to work unsupervised with students and staff.

The article quoted from the complaint and describes the tolerance by Yale of harassment towards women. In addition, several students sued under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which forbids schools receiving federal funding to discriminate based on sex, against the university.  The Tile IX suit, filed in March 2009, is cited in the lawsuit filed by Ms. Le’s estate.

What the News did not address are the legal burdens of either side of this wrongful death suit. What will the estate have to prove to impose liability on Yale University for Ms. Le’s death? Will a court link the environment of harassment alleged in the Title IX lawsuit to Mr. Clark’s violence?  Can Yale effectively argue that there was nothing it could have done to prevent Ms. Le’s death?   (more…)

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