CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Editor's Note: A previous version of this article stated the victim was identified as "Jill Roe." That is a separate case involving Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
A jury of eight people was seated in the trial of a former Myers Park High School student against the city of Charlotte and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education.
The suit says the city and school did not protect the former student, known as "Jane Doe," from getting raped on the Myers Park campus in 2015. The jurors were chosen Tuesday morning after being questioned by judge Bob Conrad.
In the suit, the 15-year-old Jane Doe says another student, an 18-year-old male, grabbed her and took her from campus and forced her into the nearby woods, and sexually assaulted her despite her verbal protests.
Doe alleges after the assault officials did not react in a timely and appropriate manner.
Conrad asked 14 prospective jurors a series of questions before the three parties picked who should make the jury. Six potential jurors who were questioned were dismissed, along with the rest of the prospective jury pool. The jurors were seated shortly after 11 a.m.
Questions asked of the jury included where they lived, if they own or rent their home and their education level. Conrad also asked them about their employment status and if they had any knowledge of the case. Potential jurors were also questioned if they knew any of the probable witnesses who could be called during the trial.
During Tuesday's hearing, it was revealed that Jane Doe's parents, and at least another family member, may testify during the trial. The school resource officer involved in the victim's complaint may also be called by the Board of Education to testify.
The lawsuit also claims that the district allowed a hostile environment through a policy of deliberate indifference to known reports of sexual misconduct and Myers Park administration punished her as she missed classes as she dealt with the trauma of the events. Those claims were argued against by attorneys for both the CMS board and the city, who went on to say Jane Doe's parents reportedly barred her from making a statement to police and did not wish to see the school's final report about the alleged assault.
Day 1: Witnesses called
The first witness called by the plaintiff's attorneys was called after a lunch break, identified by the initials "S.B." She shared she had attended Myers Park High School from 2014 through 2018 and did not know Jane Doe, but was allegedly assaulted in the woods.
She recounted her experience with "E.L.", claiming the two dated until their relationship reportedly turned abusive. S.B. told the jury Myers Park administration and the school resource officer advised her not much could be done when she reported being stalked and harassed by E.L. but did get what was called a "School Protective Order" against him. Still, S.B. claimed E.L. continued to harass and stalk her, and that she was socially ostracized.
Supporting S.B.'s testimony was S.C., a male student at the time of the alleged assault S.B. faced. S.B. said he helped S.C. make the initial reports about E.L., and that he was ordered by school administrators to get her home the day she asked for help making the report. When the defense cross-examined both S.B. and S.C. separately, the two witnesses confirmed they did not file complaints with the city or with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, since the school resource officer was employed by CMPD.
Another witness called by the plaintiff was C.H., another former Myers Park student. He said the only time he could recall school leaders discussing the woods with students was during an assembly in the fall semester of 2015. C.H. recalled that then-principal Mark Bosco gave gender-specific warnings about the woods during the assembly: that boys who went in there with girls could have "claims" made against them, and that girls wouldn't "leave happy".
C.H. did note that in another student's sex assault case, "Jill Roe" did see some action when she made her report, but her alleged abuser returned to class shortly after being pulled. He also noted he had been friends with Jill Roe since middle school and had stayed in contact with her.
The defense's cross-examination of C.H. was brief, and the plaintiff's attorneys then read into the record a previous deposition in which Bosco appeared. In this deposition, Bosco told attorneys he was aware of students using the woods for sex acts but said the greenway area was an "odd space" as the property was shared with parks and recreation services.
In the deposition, Bosco couldn't recall the Jill Roe report nor could he recall the action taken against that alleged abuser. He did, however, affirm giving students a "general warning" to not go near the woods.
The plaintiffs called in one more former Myers Park student: J.D., a girl who was one of Jane Doe's best friends. J.D. shared another perspective from the day Doe was reportedly assaulted, saying she and a group of friends were using a WhatsApp group chat to communicate. Doe had reportedly told the group she was trying to brush off inquiries about sex from the male student who would allegedly assault her, and J.D. said she advised cutting off contact with him.
However, the alleged abuser approached J.D. and Doe the day the assault allegedly happened in November 2015. J.D. stepped away, saying she would let them have space to discuss their issues and rounded a corner out of sight. Minutes later, however, both Doe and the other student were gone, and J.D. panicked.
In the WhatsApp group chat, shown in court Tuesday, Doe told her friends she was being kidnapped and was able to offer a location near the school. J.D. went to an assistant principal for help, and Doe's father also arrived. However, J.D. claimed she was met with a dismissive tone by the assistant principal and was unable to finish a written statement requested of her. She said Doe transferred schools after the incident, and noticed visible changes in Doe's demeanor and outlook on life.
J.D. was questioned by the defense about the context of some emojis used in the conversation, confirming that Doe did not cut off contact as advised, and that she recorded part of her conversation with the assistant principal easily since WhatsApp had easy access to certain functions.
The last witness called of the day was Mr. Doe, confirmed to be Jane Doe's father and primary point of contact for school matters. He recounted to the jury that he had dropped off Jane Doe at school the morning of the incident and went back home to get ready for work. However, he had to return to Myers Park when he was contacted by his wife about the developing situation, remaining on the phone with her for much of the time. He was able to get to the school as Jane was found, and stayed with her during initial meetings with school officials.
Mr. Doe remained on the phone with his wife, stopping only to let her speak with the assistant principal when requested. Mrs. Doe ended up arriving at the school, and all three left for a sexual assault examination at a nearby hospital. He noted his daughter's mental health deteriorated in the aftermath, and that even her ideal career path had shifted because of her experience.
The defense, however, would ask Mr. Doe questions about maintaining photos of text messages from that day, referring to a July 2020 deposition and questioning his level of awareness about exactly what was going on. However, Mr. Doe said the school made its decision the day of the incident, saying Jane Doe was suspended for "mutual sexual contact" with another student.
The court adjourned shortly before 6 p.m., with a second day of testimony set for Wednesday morning.
Day 2: Mrs. Doe testifies
The trial's second day saw Jane Doe's mother, identified in court as Mrs. Doe, take the stand to testify. The defense counsel for CMS questioned Mrs. Doe about the timeline of events after the November 2015 incident and what the family did. Mrs. Doe testified said her daughter was hospitalized for three days following the incident and never got a call from Myers Park in the days after to receive a formal statement from her daughter.
CMS's attorney followed up on this allegation by asking Mrs. Doe about an alleged phone call the Myers Park school resource officer, Bradley Leak, gave to her following her daughter's initial hospital visit for a sexual assault examination.
According to court records Leak, claims he called Mrs. Doe to go to the hospital and Mrs. Doe refused his offer.
Mrs. Doe said in her testimony in the hours after the incident she was solely focused on her daughter's mental and physical well-being.
CMS's attorney's continued to try and establish a pattern of Mrs. Doe barring the school from contacting or speaking with Jane Doe.
They brought up an email Mrs. Doe sent to Myers Park's then principal Mark Bosco in the days after the allegation.
Mrs. Doe told the court she received a voicemail from Bosco telling her the investigation into her daughter's allegations had been concluded and the school deemed no sexual assault had occurred.
Mrs. Doe said the alleged voicemail from Bosco was the first time she had heard from a school official since the alleged assault. Mrs. Doe testified she no longer has the voicemail. But in response to the alleged voicemail she emailed Bosco and requested a transfer of schools for her daughter and informed Bosco they would not be talking to the school about her daughter's allegations.
Mrs. Doe testified she sent this message because she didn't feel comfortable having her daughter speak to school officials if they had already come to a conclusion about the allegations without her daughter's statement.
Mrs. Doe was also pressed by the CMS attorney about how she knew her daughter was suspended after the events and she replied she could not recall any document or call from the school regarding the matter. Still, Mrs. Doe said the school did not check in and she was not looped into any investigation CMS was handling with CMPD.
The city's defense counsel also questioned why Mrs. Doe opted to call her husband instead of calling the police when she was receiving messages from her daughter that she was kidnapped in the 2015 incident. However, when questioned by her daughter's lawyer, Mrs. Doe said her state of mind was impacted by what was going on.
Mrs. Doe also said she didn't talk with her daughter about the alleged assault that day because she wanted her to get to a hospital quickly. Mrs. Doe testified details about her daughter's physical and mental health, and the assault came from medical staff. Mrs. Doe said she had not talked with her daughter about what happened at school even up until a deposition in 2020. She testified she wanted her daughter to come to her when she was ready.
Mrs. Doe revealed she did check messages on her daughter's phone and told her daughter she believed her.
After Mrs. Doe's testimony concluded, the next witness called was the nurse who performed the sexual assault examination on Jane Doe. The nurse, also a certified sexual assault examiner who has 12 years of experience and conducted more than 1,000 examinations, shared Doe's narrative as given to the hospital. She also noted she called CMPD twice to ask if a report was made and if an officer would come to take Doe's testimony, but nobody came while she was there. She left the exam kit with the charge nurse because of this.
In cross-examination, a city of Charlotte lawyer established from the nurse it was not atypical for a kit to be left with a charge nurse if a kit couldn't be immediately picked up by law enforcement.
The plaintiff's attorneys then called a Communities in Schools education coach. CIS partners with CMS to offer student support and community resources. This coach had an office at Myers Park High School as she was a site coordinator. The coach was asked about the separate Jill Roe case by Jane Doe's lawyer.
According to the coach, Roe disclosed to her that Roe's boyfriend was asking her to share explicit photos. She reported this to the Myers Park student resource officer, who then called for counselors. The coach said she was not aware of what happened after, but defense attorneys established she wouldn't be privy to that information since she wasn't a CMS employee.
Jane Doe's attorneys then went on to read into the record testimony from Jill Roe. The testimony related to Jill Roe was an attempt by the plaintiff's lawyer to establish that CMS has a pattern of mishandling sexual assault and misconduct cases.
The last testimony of the day for the prosecution was from Dr. Sharon Cooper, an expert witness with a specialty in forensic pediatric cases in addition to 35 years working with adolescents experiencing sexual assault.
Cooper testified that in her expert opinion, Jane Doe had been assaulted and Doe exhibited signs of self-blame, shame, and guilt in the years after the assault. These attributes explained, according to Cooper, why Jane Doe asked for her parents not to know the full details of the alleged assault.
Cooper said during her evaluation of Jane Doe she noted Doe had suicidal ideations and Cooper established Doe would have lifelong physical and mental health issues directly related to the sexual assault.
Physical symptoms that could be related to the assault could be an increased risk of weight gain, changes in hormone levels, impacts on childbearing, and an increased possibility of being diagnosed with cancer. She concluded Jane Doe would need long-term monitoring for these medical issues.
In the cross-examination city of Charlotte, lawyers tried to discredit the validity of Cooper's evaluation of Jane Doe to the jury. They established that Cooper was not Jane Doe's patient, she interviewed Doe years after the alleged assault and only spent around three hours interviewing Jane Doe and using previous medical documents to establish her expert testimony.
Doe's lawyer responded to this line of questioning by having Cooper establish that it's common practice for someone in her field to interview a sexual assault victim well after the initial incident. In addition, Cooper said a 3-hour examination is sufficient to ascertain an accurate mental health diagnosis.
The court concluded with Cooper's testimony.
Day 3: Jane Doe testifies
The third day of a trial involving a former Myers Park High School student's alleged sexual assault wrapped up Thursday in which a judge granted a motion from the City of Charlotte to drop claims against the city in the lawsuit.
The motion was granted on the basis that Doe's lawyer could not prove the City of Charlotte or the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department was made aware or had notice that a student resource officer wasn't taking cases or reports of sexual misconduct seriously so this behavior could not be corrected.
The trial's third day also saw Jane Doe take the stand to testify.
She accuses Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools of not properly investigating her claims of sexual assault. The judge said there was enough evidence for a jury to decide if this is true.
This all comes after a full day of testimony from Jane Doe, herself. For hours Thursday morning, Doe’s lawyers had her detail her alleged sexual assault, and CMS‘s response, or lack thereof.
Doe repeatedly said she only spoke to law enforcement from CMPD about the sexual assault allegations. She reiterated that the SRO at her school did not ask her about what actually happened. She also said her assistant principal didn’t give her an opportunity to say what happened either
CMS’ lawyers brought up three specific times that officials from the school tried to get a statement from Jane Doe.
They argued the SRO tried to get a statement from her in the car, that her assistant principal tried to get a statement from her prior to her going to the hospital, and that in an email her mother declined to have her speak to the school principal.
There were also some heated moments in the courtroom between CMS‘ lawyer and Jane Doe. One interaction caused the lawyers to have to go into the judge's chambers and strike the interaction between Doe and CMS’ lawyer from the record.
CMS’ lawyers will start calling witnesses tomorrow.
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