Harvard rejects girl who killed her mother

FROM RUPERT CORNWELL

in Washington

She seemed the model entrant, boasting brilliant grades, a pleasing personality and an impressive record of helping children from poor homes, less gifted than herself. But Gina Grant failed to reveal one thing before she was offered rare early admission for 1995 by Harvard. Five years earlier, she had savagely murdered her mother.

That omission has now cost her the coveted place, divided and hugely embarrassed America's most illustrious university, polarised its home city of Boston, and brought about a national debate on whether young criminals who have paid their debt to society should be allowed a new, untainted start to life.

The story begins in South Carolina in 1990, when Gina Grant, then 14, bludgeoned her alcoholic mother, Dorothy Mayfield, to death with a crystal candlestick, and with the help of her boyfriend tried to present it as a suicide.

She pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter, and served six months in a juvenile detention centre before being released on parole into the custody of relatives in Massachusetts.

There she flourished, so excelling at school that New England's leading paper, the Boston Globe, unaware of her past, profiled her in a series on outstanding students from the area. The article was noticed back in South Carolina. Anonymous letters arrived at the Globe and the Harvard admissions office, containing newspaper cuttings about her trial, and Ms Grant's new troubles began in earnest.

Last week, the university brusquely withdrew its offer of a place, claiming she had lied on her application form and to interviewers - only to run into a hail of criticism for its supposedly heartless behaviour. "Decision- making triggered by press clippings that show up in the mail is not a process taught in any of the social sciences," wrote the New York Times, as pro- and anti-Grant demonstrations took place on the Harvard campus.

Boston is in uproar. "Harvard on the Hot Seat," headlined the Murdoch- owned tabloid, the Boston Herald, revelling in the discomfort of the Globe, its liberal arch-rival. Boston's most famous conservative talk-radio host, Howie Clark - whose exploits have included special broadcasts from Chappaquiddick during Senator Edward Kennedy's 1994 re-election campaign - is polling listeners: "Where should Gina Grant be, Harvard or Death Row ?"

Ms Grant's story is less black and white than a complicated shade of grey. In South Carolina, she has as many opponents as defenders. For a psychiatrist who testified for her during the trial, she was victim of "one of the worst cases of psychological abuse I've ever seen," as the widowed mother vented her drunken rage at her daughter.

But the judge who sentenced her has been widely criticised for his leniency. Only this week, the police officer who investigated the killing declared that Ms Grant was a "cunning, intelligent manipulator," who constantly changed her story and showed no remorse.When she died, Mayfield was so drunk she would have been unable to defend herself. During the 1990 trial her daughter conceded that she had "a lot of problems showing how sorry I am''.

Brushing off accusations of a vindictive rush to judgment, Harvard says the matter is closed. As far as the university is concerned, Ms Grant is just one of 50,000 Americans who tried and failed to win one of its places in 1995.

But wider questions remain, of a criminal's right to forgiveness, privacy and a new start in life, especially when - as in the case of Ms Grant - rehabilitation seems complete.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam