In May 2009, Brittany J. Smith was two weeks away from graduating from the world’s most prestigious university.
Raised in Harlem in New York City, Smith had overcome a tough upbringing by making her way into an application-only public school, graduating in the top of her class with a slew of leadership positions under her belt, and gaining acceptance to Harvard.
Yet just as she stood poised to receive her Harvard diploma, Smith’s hard-won gains suddenly came crashing down.
In the basement of a Harvard dormitory, a young man was shot and killed during an attempted drug robbery—and Smith rapidly found herself dismissed from Harvard, under interrogation for her boyfriend’s involvement in the murder, and then under arrest herself.
That fatal shooting which shattered the springtime serenity of Kirkland House inflamed discussion about drugs, safety, and race at Harvard, but two years later, the fervor on campus has largely died down. Yet for Smith and many others whose lives were touched by the violent incident, the tragic saga is far from over.
In the wake of her boyfriend Jabrai Jordan Copney’s sentencing to life in prison without parole, Smith, 24, is next on the court docket.
The two targets of prosecution were just young lovers two years ago. Their relationship, sustained despite stormy conflicts, catapulted them both to the moment at which Copney participated in a murder at Harvard and Smith was forced out of the gates.
Smith and her attorney, John T. Osler, did not return requests for comment on this story.
Smith was proud of her Harlem roots, making it clear that she had experienced a tough childhood, according to a Harvard classmate.
He recalled that Smith “played the part of someone who had street sense.”
“She’s funny. She’s got attitude. She’s tough,” he said.
Smith charted a stellar record through the New York school system. She was a standout student at Frederick Douglass Academy, a public preparatory school in Harlem, from which she graduated in 2005.
At the academically intense school—where classes meet six days a week and college counselors push students toward higher education—Smith immersed herself in the “most rigorous academic curriculum,” according to Principal Gregory M. Hodge.
“Brittany Smith had a wonderful education here,” Hodge said. “A model student at the school—she was a very, very good candidate for an Ivy League [college].”
Last Kirkland Shooting Defendant Sentenced To 9 to 12 YearsBlayn Jiggetts, one of three men found guilty of the murder that took place in a Harvard dormitory two years ago, was sentenced to 9 to 12 years in prison.
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Kirkland Shooting Victim's Mother Sues HarvardThe mother of a 21-year-old man who was fatally shot in a Harvard dormitory three years ago claims that Harvard’s negligence in allowing a drug dealer to live in Lowell for months led to the wrongful death of her son.
Harvard Seeks To Dismiss Cosby Civil SuitFacing a lawsuit faulting the University and Lowell House administrators for the death of a 21-year-old man on Harvard’s campus in 2009, Harvard said in a legal filing last week that it cannot be blamed for the death of a non-student drug dealer who was killed during a transaction in Kirkland House.
An Unfounded LawsuitThough Lowell House administrators did show a marked neglect of Harvard’s policies in overlooking Copney’s presence in the House, Harvard cannot be held responsible for a crime upon which it had no proximate influence.
Attorneys Trade Arguments in Cosby Civil Suit HearingAs a judge heard arguments for the first time relating to B. Denise Cosby’s wrongful death lawsuit against Harvard for the 2009 murder of her son in Kirkland House, lawyers for Harvard said that the University cannot be held responsible for the drug deal gone wrong, and the suit should be dismissed.