The legal estate of Annie Le GRD ’13 has filed suit against Yale, alleging that the University is liable for her murder at the hands of technician Raymond Clark III. The suit’s only public supporter is Vivian Le, her biological mother; meanwhile, the two guardians who raised her have remained silent. Immediately after Annie’s death, when trauma was at its rawest, the family opposed taking legal action.
We will not speculate as to the motives or legal advice that led those involved to this decision. The family’s grieving remains none of our business. But what has been revealed so far about the lawsuit is not encouraging. Put simply, it strikes us as baseless.
The most troubling aspect of the case is its opportunistic emphasis on the Title IX complaint. The first words out of legal adviser Joe Tacopina’s mouth on the TODAY show Friday paraded this uncomfortable association. “At Yale, there’s a culture of tolerance for allowing sexual harassment,” he began. “There is a federal investigation on Yale right now for these very same offenses.” But Annie’s murder and the Title IX complaint couldn’t be less related. The complaint did not mention Yale employees or the graduate schools. It highlighted frat chanting and sexual assault reporting policies. Unless women had complained about Clark and been ignored, Yale would not have been guilty of a violation akin to those alleged in the Title IX complaint.
The suit paints an absurd picture: a Clark plotting to commit a sexual assault and murder only in the confidence that the University’s perverse sexual culture would “tolerate” it. This scenario is not consistent with the details of the case.
The lawsuit also claims that Yale is liable for hiring Clark, a man with no prior adult criminal record beyond a speeding ticket. While Clark had been accused of forcing himself on his high-school girlfriend, the University claims it did not know this. We believe them; in Connecticut, employers cannot access a job seeker’s juvenile record.
The lawsuit accuses Yale of criminal liability for having had “access” to this information, since it employed two of Clark’s relatives. But the amount of information Yale’s employees know that Yale doesn’t is astronomical. Unless the high-school story was reported to Yale authorities, the responsibility and negligence remain with Clark and his relatives.
Finally, the suit alleges that Yale is liable for failing to “promptly and adequately” investigate Le’s death. It first claims that the University should have noticed when Annie did not leave the building after a fire alarm on the day of her death. Given that no roll call is taken after fire alarms at almost any university, this seems absurd. Second, the suit faults the University for waiting until the next morning to start an investigation after Annie’s housemate reported her disappearance at 10:40 p.m. But standard police practice is to wait over a day to start a search after a missing persons report is filed.
The tragedy occurred in a locked room with key-card access that recorded entrances at all hours. Could any of us expect this kind of security in the real world? Can we litigate against random acts of evil? Can Yale keep us safe from everything?
Rounding the second anniversary of Annie’s tragic death, the lawsuit is opening wounds and dredging up horrific details. Legal analyses in this paper and others will have to re-report that Le “died a painful death.” The murder will be replayed, again and again. Yes, Yale’s image will suffer. But far worse, Annie’s memory will as well.