the orange taylor defense

I truly believe that everyone, regardless of who they are or what they might have done, is entitled to a vigorous defense. That doesn’t make it any easier for me to sit here listening to the attorney for Orange Taylor, the man being tried for raping and killing EMU student Laura Dickinson in her dorm room last December, trying to explain away the presence of the defendant’s semen on her body. The following excerpt is from Court TV coverage:

…Orange Taylor admits that he became aroused when he saw 22-year-old Laura Dickinson’s half-nude body lying on the floor the morning of Dec. 13, 2006.

But Taylor’s lawyer insisted on Monday that none of that proves he murdered or tried to rape Dickinson, despite allegations from Washtenaw County, Mich., prosecutors.

“The evidence will show there was no penetration,” defense lawyer Alvin Keel said in his opening statement in Taylor’s trial. “Sperm does not equal penetration and it does not necessarily show asphyxiation”…

“He finds Laura Dickinson in a compromised position, nude from waist down, on the floor,” Keel said. “As fate would have it, unfortunately, as Mr. Taylor is inside of her room, the 20-year-old ejaculates”…

So, if we’re to believe this, Taylor did not kill Dickinson. He just happened across her dead body and spontaneously ejaculated. “Unfortunate,” indeed.

What’s also unfortunate, as our friend Professor Higbee points out in a comment at EMU Talk, is that Taylor’s defense may make use of the fact that EMU administrators said that there was no foul play apparent to raise reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors. They would be stupid not to put it in the minds of the jurors… “If there were any indication of foul play, wouldn’t the University have said so? Clearly this wasn’t a typical homicide. There were no signs of struggle, and, even now, questions remain as to the cause of death. Isn’t it conceivable that she died by natural causes? Wasn’t it University officials that said in the wake of her death that she had a history of heart trouble? Maybe there’s something to that. And, the defense attorney is right, semen doesn’t prove murder.”

Fortunately, it appears there was another piece of evidence. It seems that a used tampon was found across the room from the body, where it appears to have been thrown. Assuming that jurors can be convinced that this wasn’t something the victim would normally do, it establishes that Taylor, or someone else in that room, removed it from her. And, from there, it wouldn’t be hard to draw the conclusion that it was removed so that penetration could occur.

In a better world, Taylor, would own up to his actions and not put the victim’s family through this. In modern America, though, no one takes responsibility for what they’ve done. In this particular case, I can almost see how the murder may have happened, how things might have escalated like they did in the book “Native Son.” Clearly I’m not condoning the actions of the murderer, but I can see how a life of crime and drug use could bring someone to that point. What I cannot see, however, is how someone could sit in a courtroom, sober, in the light of day, looking at the parents of the girl he murdered, and allow such a defense to be laid out. I cannot even begin to imagine what kind of human being could.

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  1. Posted October 19, 2007 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    In a better world, Taylor, would own up to his actions and not put the victim’s family through this. In modern America, though, no one takes responsibility for what they’ve done.

    Assuming that he’s guilty, a determination that the court has yet to make. And it is the court that has to make that determination, not the prosecutor or the newspaper or you and me. Yes, the evidence I know about makes Taylor look very guilty, but I’ve only seen the half of the evidence that the prosecution has provided us via the papers.

    Having had an innocent friend imprisoned and tried for murder, I am very willing to give the accused his day in court, and not to jump to assumptions of guilt. Once the justice system has determined that he is guilty, then we can make statements like the above, lamenting a lack of responsibility and remorse.

  2. Steph's Dad
    Posted October 19, 2007 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    They could clear this up pretty quickly if they brought a half-dressed woman into the courtroom. If Taylor could get his unit to spring out on its own from his pants like Houdini and spit seed they would let him go immediately.

  3. Kurt
    Posted October 19, 2007 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I just spontaneously ejaculated upon reading that story, so I know it can happen.

  4. edweird
    Posted October 19, 2007 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    You can’t tell me Chewbacca is from Endor. I know better.

  5. Mark H.
    Posted October 19, 2007 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    As usual, i like your take on the case.

    As for our friends’ legtimate concern about the presumption of innocence – that is a requirement for the courts, the police, the state in all its manifestations: There can be no punishment without a conviction. But mere citizens who have no role in the trial – that is, nearly everyone who are not jurors or court officials – are certainly entitled to form and express our views on the court cases. I would not substitute my lay citizen’s judgment for that of a jury in any case….but if citizens can’t form opinions about unfolding legal cases, then that’s tantamount to saying that there’s no reason to pay attention to the court system’s workings.

    There is, in short, no need for the citizenry to credit each side of a legal case with equal plausibility when one side puts forward a defense based on utterly unbelievable claims and exaggerations and imagined coincidences.

  6. mark
    Posted October 20, 2007 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate your support, Mark, but Murph does raise a good point. It is conceivable that the defendant is innocent and we should keep that in mind. As you mention though, we as citizens have a right and a duty to follow the judicial system and express our views.

  7. edweird
    Posted October 20, 2007 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Seriously. None of us are on the jury. We can have our opinions based on the evidence at hand. We can decide if he’s guilty or not for ourselves. In the end it won’t matter. None of us are on the jury. We’re not holding his life in our hands. And I stand by my earlier comment. I don’t by his defense. Dude jerked off on a girl asleep and naked on her dorm room floor? That’s his defense, people. If for some strange reason this can hold true, he deserves jail for not checking if she were alive or dead before jerking off on her and stealing her stuff.

    I’m with Higbee on this one.

  8. Posted October 20, 2007 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Actually both the prosecution and the defense want to keep the University out of it. Their moronic actions were completely what happened after she had already been taken from us. Hopefully those who all were at fault there will have their job at EMU terminated, as it was more than 3 people. There’s also a huge amount of changes that need to be done.

    But I digress, which is exactly the reason they don’t want bringing EMU into it…it distracts from the facts of the prosecution and the theories of the defense.

    He admitted to count 3 and 4 in the interview, so he is at least convicted of those. As the assistant prosecutor said, either Laura naturally died of a heart attack with no previous symptoms during her crew career and it just so happened that a whole ton of really strange coincidences occurred to Mr. Taylor’s misfortune…or it just makes sense to tie all of the evidence the more logical way; Orange Taylor killed her.

    I hope you’re learning from CourtTV by the internet feed, and not the moronic commentary. Even the lawyers (not even referring to talking heads like Banfield) are getting things wrong…they’re not really paying attention. One said Longsworth added new fiber evidence in the closing arguments…which is incorrect.

  9. Posted October 23, 2007 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    I’m in the middle of reading Native Son right now, so I thought it interesting you brought it up – being that it’s a very old book and nobody I know has read it (and I thought a number of them would have).

    I agree with your statement, Mark, about people taking responsibility for their actions. I was thinking specifically of Stephen Grant, however, as he’s already confessed to the crime and now hiw lawyers are trying to get the confession thrown out. That makes me crazy.

  10. Robert
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    I don’t see a problem yet. It’s a logical defense, and it should fail against any competent detective’s investigation (assuming Orange is guilty). I don’t know much about what’s been going on with the case, so I guess that’s my question; Who has been in charge of the investigation, and are they competent?

  11. Racist Comment
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    [comment deleted]

  12. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    Oh! Dewoit is cwap! You so cute!! I love it when those civil war reenactors come to town in their bushy bloomers and the old folks at Greenfield Village dress up in funny stockings and silly wigs to remind us of our olden days.

    Are you feeling neglected? Do you need some attention, too? Come here, it’s owkay. You let it out … yes, ye-wes, you angwry. Go ahead, say, “nigwer,” you feel better now schnooky? You so quaint, I just want to snuggwly wovely you … who’s a big boy? Hmmmm? Who’s a big boy? Cwappy just wanted some attention, isn’t that wight? Awwwww…

    [This comment references another comment that was deleted for containing hate speech.]

  13. Midwest Entertainment
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    This man is obviously guilty of something, but murder and rape, I don’t think so. Come-on we all seen an episode or two of CSI. If a rape occurred there would be more evidence than seminal fluid, when taking into account, SHE WAS MENSTRATING I dont think that he killed Ms. Dickerson. I do feel that he violated her sexually when he allowed his seminal fluid to come into contact with her. No matter if it was post-mortem in my opinion he violated her. Or maybe at the minimum some kind of breaking and entering charges.

    I attend EMU, and my attitude is that someone has to pay for this WOMEN/STUDENT/MOTHER dying in the custody and sanctuary of EMU. What you fail to read or hear about in the media is that there had been numerous violet attacks on and around the campus in the months prior to the alleged murder of Ms. Dickerson.

    In response to the writer who stated, “Hang The Nigger”?, you just proved that all NIGGERS aren’t the so-called African-American. They come in all shapes and sizes; races and class, some even have access to computers and hide behind words and a computer monitor and too afraid to tell the world who they are. Catch my drift?! Instead of trying to perpetuate hate and fear, try stepping into society and progress with the rest of us you DONKEY.

    [This comment references another comment that was deleted for containing hate speech.]

  14. mark
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    I don’t like having to edit comments. I can only think of one other instance when I’ve done it. I debated whether or not to do it in this case, as I hate the idea of censoring free speech, but I couldn’t in good conscience leave it up, especially as it contained a link to what was clearly a hate site.

  15. js
    Posted October 25, 2007 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    “I’m in the middle of reading Native Son right now, so I thought it interesting you brought it up – being that it’s a very old book and nobody I know has read it (and I thought a number of them would have).”

    Really? Our whole class had to read it in high school, along with Black Boy, both of which were absolutely terrible. Native Son, particularly, is an example of an interesting story being clubbed to death by a terrible writer. The prose is just insipid, and the dialog is horrendous.

  16. Posted October 25, 2007 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    An article in yesterday’s A2News struck me as representative of why I’m opposed to “mere citizens” (in Mark H’s words) setting aside notions like “presumed innocent” and “beyond a reasonable doubt” and saying, “Well, obviously, he’s guilty – let’s see if the court does it’s job.”

    From, Result of trial stuns victim’s hometown

    ‘Drop (Taylor) off in the middle of the city, and we’ll see what happens to him for what he did,’ said a man who identified himself only as Nick, a former Hastings football player and wrestler who was a year behind Dickinson in school.

    Yep, we have somebody telling the paper that they plan to lynch the accused. Wonderful.

    As I said, a friend of mine was wrongly accused of murder, a year after the murder happened. Notably, among other oddities with the case, witnesses noted a male killer, while my friend is female. She had been quite close to the victim’s parents, until this accusation came out, at which point the parents were quoted in the papers as saying, “We want her to hang.”

    I’m not saying that Taylor’s innocent – knowing what I know of his case, I’d guess he’s not. I’m just saying that I’m *VERY* leery of us as “mere citizens”, outside of the rigorous environment of a jury, saying, “Oh, please. He’s totally guilty.” Having seen just what lengths people can go to in assuming that “accused = guilty”, I feel I have pretty good reason to fear “the wisdom of crowds.”

  17. Luke Bison
    Posted October 25, 2007 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    I thought “wrongfully accused” was an oxymoron?

  18. e
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    innocent until proven guilty

  19. Robert
    Posted November 6, 2007 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Is it true that the medical examiner could not conclude what the cause of death was? Was it Dr. Bader J. Cassin who did the examination? Can anyone tell us more about this?

  20. Robert
    Posted November 6, 2007 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Ok, now I see in an LA Times article that Cassin WAS the examiner, and that Dickinson “likely died of asphyxiation” according to the autopsy. If that is true, it would strongly support the case against Taylor for murder. I also see there are surveillance cameras on or around Hill Hall which showed Taylor sneaking into the building early on December 13th and leaving 90 minutes later. There is no way this crime scene didn’t offer plenty of evidence to convict Taylor. Either he is simply not guilty of murder, or the investigators are incompetent. These days, I’d say the latter is more likely. I guess it’s also possible that he’s not guilty, AND they are incompetent.

  21. abby c
    Posted November 6, 2007 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    It was Dr. Bader J. Cassin. He determined that it was a homicide caused either by strangulation or suffocation, or a combination of both. He excluded all other causes of death besides those two.

    Because the body had been decomposing right next to a heater for several days, he could not eliminate the (remote) possibility of a heart attack via a specific test, but he could eliminate it as a probability given the positioning of the body and the evidence of attempted rape.

    Another doctor had examined her heart two months before so that she could be on the rowing team and found nothing wrong with it.

    All but one of the jurors (according to the third juror who spoke to the press) were convinced that she was murdered, tho’ a second juror thought that she may have been killed unintentionally (also a murder because committed in conjunction with another crime).

  22. Robert
    Posted November 11, 2007 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Abby C. My previous comment was too inflammatory toward the investigators. I apologize for being so obnoxious, but I still am wondering why the defense wasn’t overwhelmed easily. I think we would have to hear what the dissenting jurors’ reasons were for doubting the prosecutions case before anyone could really say with relative certainty that Taylor might be guilty only of a lesser charge. I doubt it would hold much water. I think it’s pretty obvious that Taylor IS guilty of murder in some degree, and guilty of several other fairly serious crimes relating to this incident.

  23. abby c
    Posted November 11, 2007 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Hi Robert,

    You should see the earlier discussion on emutalk, which has links to video interviews with all three of the jurors who have spoken about the deliberations:

    The vast majority were convinced of Taylor’s guilt. The one juror who did not was not even convinced of the burglary charge that Taylor essentially confessed to, which shows that she wasn’t using the standards of reasonable doubt that would ordinarily be used to determine guilt.

    There is an article linked somewhere in those emutalk posts discussing the reticence of jurors to declare guilt in the post-DNA/CSI age.

  24. Robert
    Posted November 11, 2007 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Thanks again, Abby C. You’re the coolest.

  25. blen
    Posted December 9, 2007 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    If you’re so stupid that while breaking into a building that you’re not supposed to be in, you find a dead body that just happens to be nude from the waist down and instead of just getting out of there or telling the cops, you start to jerk off,

    then shouldn’t you just be put to death anyhow/

  26. Posted December 13, 2007 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    I personally think that Orange Taylor is innocent. It says that Laura had heart problems. So that is something that should really be put into consideration of how she died. He shouldnt be put in jail because he ejaculated on her while she was half nude. Okay, im a girl, but we all know how guys can be. But just because his sperm was on her, doesnt mean he killed her. Not one bit.

  27. Posted December 13, 2007 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Okay Blen. How about NOT! okay. It’s not stupid. You DONT know what you would do in a situation like that…do you? You may state what you would POSSIBLY do, but in reality, you dont know what you would do.
    So…should he be put to death. NO i dont think so.

  28. Mark H.
    Posted December 13, 2007 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    The state of Michigan has no capital punishment. No matter what the crime. So there’s no chance that this defendant will be sentenced to death.

  29. tooclose2detroit
    Posted April 7, 2008 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    great news-this piece of human waste was found guilty today-one of the high points of my life will be seeing this fecal matter with legs being put away for life.

  30. mark
    Posted April 7, 2008 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe no one bought the, “I was so scared when I found the body that I ejaculated” defense.

  31. egpenet
    Posted April 7, 2008 at 6:59 pm | Permalink


  32. ricco46
    Posted July 10, 2008 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    That he was found not gulity in the first trial is a crime in itself . That black juror that found him not guilty should be put on trial. She let race come into this and KNEW that he did it and still found him not guilty…people should have to be given lie detectors in order to see if they can put aside their BS long enough to put a killer and rapist off the streets! Thank god she didn’t have her way and got off…he was found guilty in the second trial on all charges!!! Too bad that black juror didn’t have her way.

  33. Reclusion
    Posted July 10, 2008 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

  34. helium
    Posted August 21, 2008 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Then who threw the tampon across the room. Either Mr. Taylor is guilty or he is the most unfortunate person on the planet.

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