Family of murdered female student sues Yale University

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 07, 2011 3:43 PM
Family of murdered female student sues Yale University

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The family of a Yale University medical student found strangled in a laboratory on the eve of her wedding day has sued the school for negligence, saying it allowed an atmosphere of aggression toward women.

The wrongful death lawsuit alleges Annie Le, 24, was attacked in 2009 on a New Haven, Connecticut, campus that tolerated dangerous attitudes toward female students.

"Yale had long taken inadequate steps to ensure the safety and security of women on its campus," the family's attorney Joseph Tacopina said in an e-mail statement on Wednesday.

Le, a student at the Yale School of Medicine, was beaten and strangled by Raymond Clark, a technician at the lab where Le performed experiments as part of her studies, the lawsuit said. Her body was found days later stuffed behind a wall of the lab building.

Clark, 26, pleaded guilty to murdering Le and was sentenced to 44 years in prison in June. Clark, who cleaned mouse cages in the lab building, admitted strangling the pharmacology student days before her wedding date of September 13, 2009.

"Sexual attacks on and harassment of women at Yale had been a well-documented and long-standing problem, and there was a widespread belief that Yale repeatedly failed to impose meaningful discipline on offenders," the lawsuit said.

Tacopina said Yale knew or should have known that Clark posed a potential threat to Le's safety, citing what he described as his "previously demonstrated aggressive behavior and a violent propensity toward women."

Thomas Conroy, a Yale spokesman, said in an e-mail statement that the university had no information to indicate that Clark was capable of the crime and that "no reasonable security measures" could have prevented it.

"This lawsuit serves neither justice nor Annie's memory... and the University will defend against it as appropriate," the statement said.

Yale established a fellowship in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program in Le's name with an initial gift of $100,000, according to the university website. The first recipients were announced in May.

The complaint, filed on Tuesday, named both the university and the Yale School of Medicine as defendants. It said the university was negligent in hiring Clark for a position that gave him unsupervised access to students and staff, and for failing to adequately monitor his activities on campus.

Le, a Vietnamese-American doctoral student, was a resident of California and a graduate of the University of Rochester in New York, where she had met her fiance, according to a Yale University statement at the time of her death.

"As a result of the negligence of Yale, Ms. Le suffered a loss in her ability to enjoy all of her life's activities, including but not limited to her wedding and marriage," the complaint said.

(Reporting by Ray Sanchez; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Cynthia Johnston)