Grant Case Sparks National Debate

Juvenile Justice, Admit Processes Questioned

"As best we can recall, [Fitzsimmons andMarshall] acknowledged that, but said it was ajudgment call," one source said. "In other words,[they said] Gina could have chosen to explain hercircumstances, but chose not to."

Later in the Wednesday meeting, Ogletreereportedly asked whether Grant could haveindicated her involvement in her mother's death inanother part of the application. Marshall andFitzsimmons said there have been cases in whichapplicants note special circumstances on theirforms, the source said.

Marshall and Fitzsimmons conceded that therewas no section on the application for informationrelated to criminal records, but then said thatthe admissions office was troubled by the mannerin which she became an orphan, according to thesource.

Fitzsimmons and Ogletree could not be reachedfor comment yesterday.

"They made the argument that Gina's record,although distinguished, was no more distinguishedthan that of many applicants," the source said."It was the orphan angle that was a good hook. Thefact that Gina was an orphan and had come fromdifferent circumstances was what made her unique."


"The new information, in their minds,undermined her claim to be distinguished by beingan orphan, when in fact the circumstances she hadto overcome were even more difficult" than thoseof other applicants with difficult backgrounds,the source said.

Grant's attorney, Margaret A. Burnham,confirmed yesterday that Grant was not given anopportunity to air her defense before Harvardrescinded its offer of admission.

She said her client plans to appeal Harvard'sdecision and has not ruled out the possibility ofa lawsuit against the University.

"The decision had already been made," Burnhamsaid. "That was a post-hoc meeting. That was agathering to announce the decision, not a meetingto discuss what, if any, action Harvard shouldtake on material it had received in the mail."

Burnham, who was not present at Wednesday'smeeting, said she later talked to several Harvardadministrators, whom she refused to identify.

"The officials that I talked to just describedher application as incomplete, because theapplication did not include a material part of herlife," the attorney said.

Legal Issues

Grant's case was closed in 1991 by theLexington County S.C. Family Court after a judgeruled she had committed voluntary manslaughter.

Under South Carolina law, the proceedings weresealed from the public and can only be reopened ifGrant were involved in another violent crime. Butnews reporters provided daily coverage of Grant's1990 trial.

Burnham said yesterday that the student did notdisclose either the court's ruling or hersubsequent time in a correctional facility on herapplication, because Grant felt she was within herlegal rights not to do so.

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