The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday May 20th

Jillian Murray and her lawyer speak out about sexual assault case

She’s waited for resources after her sexual assault, then for answers to her complaints on the mishandling of her case, then for the N.C. Court of Appeals to decide whether the University could throw out her case altogether. Now she’s waiting again.

On March 1, the Court of Appeals denied UNC’s attempt to dismiss Murray’s case. The University has until April 5 to decide whether it will appeal that decision.

University spokesperson Jim Gregory said the Office of University Counsel had not made a decision as of Wednesday.

The tedious process has been traumatizing, Murray said.

“The decision to tell someone about an extremely intimate trauma is... monumental and life-changing, and retelling that story obviously takes a toll,” she said in an email.

“For UNC to show so little regard for that, and draw out the reporting process without real notice or cause, has been a hard thing to understand and accept.”

The Court of Appeals decision said the court did not have jurisdiction over the University’s appeal, so Murray can continue her suit against UNC. If the University appeals the decision, the case will go to the N.C. Supreme Court.

Henry Clay Turner, Murray’s lawyer, said another appeal would add at least another year of waiting — a common thread, he said, in the University’s strategy to sweep things under the rug instead of confronting underlying issues.

“They’re in the game of trying to wait until things go away,” he said. “One of the arguments is that the whole case is moot now. The reason that they can make that argument at all is because they’re delaying everything indefinitely.”

Murray’s lawsuit is focused around a state law passed in 2013 that grants lawyers full participation in non-academic school disciplinary procedures, which includes sexual assault and misconduct cases.

But Turner was not able to question the accused student or participate in the hearing, according to the lawsuit.

Turner said, in an ideal world, lawyers would not have to be involved in Title IX proceedings at universities. However, he said slow processes and a culture of protecting a reputation rather than serving victims requires their involvement.

“Lawyers are critically important for improving the process and protecting the right of those trying to navigate the process,” he said.

Murray said she is eager to continue her case.

“I was disappointed in UNC’s attempt to dismiss my case at all,” she said. “Despite all the University has put me through, I still had faith that it would finally decide to put the interests of a population of its most vulnerable students first. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t the case, and I’m definitely eager to see what they decide to do next.”

Turner said a culture shift will be necessary to fix the adjudication process of sexual assault cases.

“You have to hire people, and you have to support the people you have — who are more interested in solving the problem than they are in protecting the University’s name or in protecting their own jobs,” he said.

“And you have to create an institutional climate that allows those people to do their work.”



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