Monday, April 7, Orange Taylor II was found guilty of the December 2006 murder of fellow Eastern Michigan University student Laura Dickinson. He was also convicted of assault with the intent to commit sexual penetration. The verdict carries with it a mandatory life sentence without parole.
A janitor found Laura Dickinson, a 22-year-old nutrition major, dead and partially naked in her dorm room in 2006. Taylor’s first trial last fall ended in a hung jury. After his lawyers argued that Dickinson had died of natural causes and neither side called any witnesses to the stand. For the second trial, the prosecution was prepared with 30 witnesses and 200 exhibits of evidence. The defense had no witnesses and one exhibit.
The jury returned the verdict after four hours of deliberation.
According to the April 8 edition of the Associated Press, Taylor’s brother Genaro Cofield said in response to the jury’s decision: “We hope the Dickinson family can have some closure. This is a tragic day for both families.” Taylor’s family plans to appeal the verdict.
“We’re very disappointed. We still believe that [Taylor] did not kill Laura Dickinson,” Cofield said.
The case led the U.S. Department of Education to fine EMU $357,500 after school officials issued misleading statements in an effort to cover up Dickinson’s death. The university did not tell the Dickinson family or the EMU community that she had been murdered until Taylor was arrested 10 weeks after her body was found. In the meantime, the university told the public that Dickinson had died in a “freak accident.” The scandal led to national news coverage and the removal of EMU President John Fallon, Vice President for Student Affairs Jim Vick and Public Safety Director Cindy Hall. EMU also paid the Dickinson family $2.5 million in a settlement.
Some EMU students believe that the crime has resulted in some positive changes on campus. There has been increased communication between campus security and community members, as well as increased awareness of the campus safety escort service.
“I think everything changed when things first started coming out… As a consequence, we started to become more secure here,” Computer science Professor Zenia Bahorski said in an interview with the Ann Harbor News. “We were walking around in a false sense of security [before].”