Maya Little's Honor Court appeal panel did not reach a verdict Tuesday night after five hours of court proceedings. The five-member panel will deliver a final decision on Wednesday.
Little, who was found guilty in October by the Honor Court for defacing Silent Sam, was sanctioned with a letter of warning and 18 hours of community service in her initial case hearing.
“I’m Maya Little, and I’m here because UNC is continuing to try me,” Little said.
Little and her defense counsel, law student Gina Balamucki, argued the appeal on three grounds: insufficient evidence, violation of basic rights and severity of court sanctions.
“We’re really excited to have this opportunity to appeal, but like the legal system, the real legal system, the Honor Court system has not been transparent, has not been fair and just isn’t a system I would wish on anyone,” Balamucki said.
Prior to the hearing, Balamucki led a gathering in the Pit to support Little and to dedicate a monument to James Cates, a Black man who was stabbed outside the Student Union in 1970 by the Storm Troopers, a Nazi-affiliated motorcycle gang. After this dedication to Cates, the group marched to Franklin Street. There, they installed another monument in honor of an unnamed African-American woman, who Julian Carr described beating at the dedication speech for Silent Sam in 1913.
“The reveling in our blood is exactly what UNC is about,” Little said. “They monumentalize or dress up as slavers and white terrorists. They protect an armed white soldier statue, but can’t memorialize James Cates.”
The appeal hearing began an hour after the dedication. Panel members included School of Medicine professor Marcia Hobbs, technical services archivist for UNC Libraries Laura Hart, and law students Winston Hanks and Alexandra Hernandez. The panel was chaired by Aaron Bachenheimer, executive director of Off-Campus Student Life and Community Partnerships.
Little highlighted the lack of diversity concerning the panel’s ability to reach a fair and impartial decision.
“For one, there are five white people on a board that’s supposed to represent the University,” Little said. “That’s quite strange to me.”
In April 2018, Little painted Silent Sam with red paint mixed with her blood. Balamucki argued this didn't constitute damage to the statue, and thus was insufficient evidence to sanction Little.
“However, a statue with dirt on it is dirty, not damaged,” Balamucki said in her opening statement. “A statue with chalk on it is dirty, not damaged. A statue with paint on it is dirty, not damaged.”
Much of the appeal hearing focused on the fairness of Little’s original hearing, particularly in the involvement of law student Frank Pray. Balamuki argued Pray's presence in the initial trial was unfair to Little.
“He, by his own admission, has been called a racist and a bigot,” Balamucki said in an opening statement. “If Frank had been removed from the panel, Maya would have been found not guilty.”
In 2015, professor Altha Cravey, Little’s chief witness in the original hearing, tweeted a positive message toward the Real Silent Sam coalition, a group dedication to the historical context surrounding the statue. In response, Pray tweeted: “Do you teach all of your students how to remain petulant children throughout their lives? You’re a disgrace.”
During the hearing’s questioning, Pray continued to speak of his impartiality.
“I didn’t think about optics,” Pray said. “My ability to be impartial was always there.”
Balamucki also argued Little was denied her rights in the current hearing due to Amelia Ahern’s absence. Ahern was the panel chairperson in the October hearing, during which she allowed Pray to remain on the panel amidst concern over his personal bias.
Despite being compelled by the Office of Student Conduct to attend, Ahern was not present as a witness.
“In the initial hearing, everyone was here for two grueling days,” Balamucki told the panel. “Very few of the witnesses decided to show up for this trial. They were excited to come here when they were the ones in charge, when they got to find Maya guilty. But when it’s their responsibility to be here and be questioned by the panel, they’re not willing to go to those same lengths.”