orange taylor and e.m.u. on trial

Orange Taylor, the EMU student accused of raping and murdering a fellow student right before Christmas break, just had his first day in court. Not much in the coverage was unexpected, but I did find it interesting that, according to the ABC affiliate in Grand Rapids, “an EMU Detective said he had a gut feeling this was a crime scene” when he first entered the dormitory room of Laura Dickinson. Leaving aside the fact that, yes, practically anyone who finds the corpse of a dead young woman, with a pillow pressed over her face, showing signs of having been raped, would get a “gut feeling” that something wasn’t quite right, I found it interesting because, to my knowledge, it is the first time that an EMU employee has gone on the record stating that, from the first moment the body was discovered, foul play was suspected… You’ll recall that the University, up until this point, has maintained that foul play was not expected at first — hence their ‘don’t worry, be happy, and have a wonderful holiday’ email notification to staff and students.

As we all now know, if it does become clear that the administration had reason to suspect that a murder had taken place on campus and not warned the community, it would be a violation of the Clery Act, so it’s a big deal to suggest that someone on the EMU payroll suspected foul play from the outset. The “Ann Arbor News,” who covered the same hearing, reported the exchange a bit differently though. Here’s a clip from their report:

…EMU Detective Lt. Jeffrey Nesmith testified that Dickinson was found dead on the floor, lying on a blanket and sheet, with her head at the foot of the bed. She had a pillow over her face, he said, and her arms were outstretched, one under the bed.

Nesmith said he almost immediately called the Michigan State Police crime lab to document the scene. “I was trying to determine if there were any signs of foul play, anything obvious about what happened,” Nesmith testified. “There was a pillow over the head of a person on the floor”…

If anyone has a transcript of what was actually said, I’d be interested in seeing it. I’ve read the “Ann Arbor News” piece a half dozen times now, and I still can’t figure out what exactly Nesmith was trying to convey. It sounds like he’s saying that he called in the Michigan State Police crime lab because he couldn’t determine whether or not foul play was involved, which, excuse me, sounds a bit too overly rehearsed… Of course foul play was suspected.

(This is an aside, but does EMU have Detectives? According to the EMU public safety website, they have “18 police officers, one crime prevention officer, four sergeants and three administrators“. Are the four sergeants considered detectives? I know it’s a small point, but I’m curious. I never think of EMU as having Detectives, at least not in the sense that I think of them.)

And, while we’re on the subject, if someone hasn’t already filed a FOIA request for the emails between EMU President John Fallon and Jim Vick, the EMU VP for Student Affairs, for the period immediately after Dickinson’s body was discovered, they really should. I suspect the results would shed a lot of light on what was suspected and when.

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21 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted March 27, 2007 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    Mark,

    You should file the request. Then post the results on-line.

    Here is a website you can use to generate the request.

    http://www.michiganpress.org/index/84

    – Steve

  2. mark
    Posted March 27, 2007 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the tip, Steve. I may pursue it myself, but, more likely, I’ll just send a note off to the “Eastern Echo,” suggesting that they do it. I’m not looking to replace the press, just nudge them on occasion.

  3. mark
    Posted March 28, 2007 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    The “Detroit News” is calling for Fallon’s resignation. Here’s a clip:

    …The federal Clery Act requires college administrators to issue a “timely warning” when a crime presents a threat to students and staff members. The U.S Department of Education is looking into the EMU case.

    But the university’s regents should not wait for investigators’ conclusion to act. And Gov. Jennifer Granholm should hold accountable her recently appointed regents to straighten out the university.

    EMU President Fallon has repeatedly demonstrated his poor management and decision-making skills. He should be asked to leave…

  4. ol' e cross
    Posted March 28, 2007 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    I was just about to add that link…

    Congratulations to the Detroit News for managing to tie this scandal to Gov. Granholm.

    No doubt, their endorsed man DeVos would’ve had the whole thing well in hand by now.

    Thank god no one is crassly using this daughter’s death for political purpose.

  5. Jim
    Posted March 31, 2007 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    The AA News has a story on EMU emails obtained through a FOIA request:
    http://www.mlive.com/news/annarbornews/index.ssf?/base/news-22/1175325240174040.xml&coll=2
    It doesn’t sound like the emails released reveal much new information.

  6. egpenet
    Posted March 31, 2007 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    A day-by-day, hour-by-hour plot of the emails might reveal questionable “gaps” in time … if so, questions arise about how “going dark” served the campus, and/or what other forms of communication might have beeen employed by the admin., and/or were the email servers “cleaned.”

    Dotting all of the “i’s” and crossing all of the “t’s” will help bury this story once and for all … so we can get on with our lives.

  7. mark h
    Posted March 31, 2007 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    It is highly likely that EMU officials “cleaned” their email files about this matter. They had plenty of days to do so, in the period between when Orange Taylor was arrested and the EMU president John Fallon announced that the University was taking steps to ensure that records were retained. This is a crowd of people well versed in the actions required to deny responsibility.

    After all, this is, for the most part, an Administration that survived the University House scandal of early in this decade – which was the biggest scandal in the history of public higher education in Michigan.

  8. egpenet
    Posted March 31, 2007 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    No accusations … no more rumors! The check simply needs to be made. Investigative journalists do this sort of thing all the time. Nothing should be overlooked is what I am saying. “Opportunity” was a big part of the original crime. “Opportunity” may also be part of the “long silence” heard ’round the campus. If Jim has the link and the records, just DO it.

  9. Jim
    Posted April 1, 2007 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    All I know is what I read in the online version of Saturday’s AA News article, which does not include the full text of any of the emails. The article offers some clues about how decisions were made, but it doesn’t tell much.

  10. Patti
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    Mark,
    I’m sure you have already seen it, but I suggest you read the Butzel Long report. Let’s just say that EMU officials are corrupt and worthless. It makes me really angry that I can’t feel safe at my own school. Every now and then you’ll see a police car drive around main campus, but that’s about it. At the College of Business, I’ve never seen any security or police officers. Some nights, they have people who will walk you to your car (part of the SeeUs program). But something could happen to you in the parking garage without anyone knowing. In my opinion, it’s not safe. It never really was. Thank God for pepper-spray! Here’s the link to the Butzel Long report. You can read the summary or the full report.
    http://www.emich.edu/regents/Butzel_Long_investigation/

  11. mark
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Patti,

    I know why you feel the way you do. It’s understandable, given what’s happened recently. For what it’s worth, however, I know many students and faculty at EMU, and I don’t now of any of them to have experienced crime recently. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen. I does, and we all need to be alert, but I don’t get the sense that there’s a growing trend toward violent crime. There is quite a bit of property theft, but, other than that, I think things are pretty much unchanged from a few years ago. For what it’s worth, I also hear from shop owners on Michigan Ave that business is the best it’s been in recent history. More people on the streets means more eyes and ears, and I think that’s a good thing… Anyway, I’m sorry you feel unsafe on campus. It might be worth sending a letter to the administration… If you want the University to take action, now is the time. Ask for more of a police presence after evening classes. Ask for better lighting. Make specific demands and see how they respond… Best of luck.

  12. mark
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    And you might find this of interst, Patti. It was posted on DowntownYpsi.org a few days ago.

    Good Morning-

    I am a Public Relations/Journalism student at Eastern Michigan University and I am currently working on an assignment regarding safety in our Community. I am currently taking a Journalism class at EMU and our final assignment for the Spring semester is to write an article that could be published.

    I am looking for any thoughts/ideas regarding safety in our community. This assignment was assigned last minute to teach students how to write an article under a time constraint. If you would like to be a part of the article, please include your name/occupation/age.

    Some questions that I am interested in are below:

    – What is being to done assure safety in our community?
    – Is there anything residents can do to create a safer community?
    – How do you feel about community? Do you think it’s safe? Unsafe? What can be done to change it?

    ANY information/comments would be helpful and GREATLY appreciated.

    I truly appreciate your time! I look forward to receiving any information possible. Please contact me if needed.

    Katie Connor
    kconnor2@emich.edu

    I thought you might want to drop her a note.

  13. Robert
    Posted July 1, 2007 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    The most important thing is that we all take ownership and responsibility for the world around us. I am sure many people who post here are the type who do. But it’s become painfully obvious to me that the majority of people around here seriously believe it’s entirely someone else’s responsibility to make their community a safer place. They use the excuse that it’s someone else’s job to take care of things, and that getting involved in anything is ‘not worth the trouble’ or just plain too dangerous.

    I once came upon the scene of a house fire in Canton where firemen had pulled the bodies of a half dozen children from the house, but they were unable to revive them. I was astonished that so many died in such a small ranch style house. I asked witnesses how that happened and nobody wanted to say much. It turned out that scores of people stood around waiting for the firefighters to arrive. Most of the neighbors knew there were so many young children in the house, but didn’t do a single thing to help get one out. The firefighters arrived in amazing time…once someone had called them. But, nobody even made some half-ass attempt at getting at any of those kids. I think that incident perfectly illustrates how communities and whole societies really crumble. It’s not so much from the failures of our formal institutions, so much as it is the slow erosion of our sense of what makes a strong community or society.

  14. Posted October 24, 2007 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Hello, I watched this trial from start to finish. I must tell you that there is no doubt in my mind that Taylor is as guilty of murder. I am very dissapointed that the defendant was found in a hung jury. The man is as guilty as sin. God says an eye for an eye. He did beyond a reasonable doubt Taylor did kill this poor child. What convenced me of his guilt, was the fact that seman was on her and the floor. No woman would pull out her tampon and toss it across the room. I know he is guilty for this crime. The gurer you are speaking to is blind! I myself saw the vedio and I did see Orange go into her room. With my own eyes I saw that. If is isn’t guilty, there is only one reason why she died was shock seeing Orange enter her room having a heart attact. For me that is the only reason he could be innocent. Understand I do not believe that either. Thank you and I am very upset for the hung juror. Thank you for your time. Thank you so much for your time. Suzy

  15. Posted October 24, 2007 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Guilty beyond a reasonable doubt! The evidence is clear he was there at the time of death and I think the prosacuters were great at presenting the evidence. Suzy

  16. Carol Perkins
    Posted April 1, 2008 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    I think Orange Taylor is innocent

  17. Posted April 1, 2008 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    I think Orange Taylor is innocent. I believe she was waiting for her boyfriend,and he killed her, iys the only thing that makes sense to me.The girl left a party because she was not feeling well, she goes home, calls her boyfriend and tell him she’s not feeling well, and she was going to bed, but she gets on a computer instead of lying down, with her dorm unlocked as if she was waiting for someone and did’nt want to fall asleep while waiting. I think the boyfriend came and killed her.

  18. Posted April 1, 2008 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    I think Orange Taylor is innocent. I believe she was waiting for her boyfriend,and he killed her, its the only thing that makes sense to me.The girl left a party because she was not feeling well, she goes home, calls her boyfriend and tell him she’s not feeling well, and she was going to bed, but she gets on a computer instead of lying down, with her dorm unlocked as if she was waiting for someone and did’nt want to fall asleep while waiting. I think the boyfriend came and killed her.

  19. egpenet
    Posted April 1, 2008 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    You said that already.

  20. mark
    Posted April 1, 2008 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    Yup, Carol, that explains almost everything… except the video footage showing Taylor (not the boyfriend) entering the building, and the presence of his (Taylor’s) semen on her corpse.

  21. IRIS Hughes
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    How is Orange doing? Does he have access to the internets?

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