Dear Justice Project Coordinators,
Our son faced a case at the Office of Community Standards in 2013 in which there was an overriding presumption of guilt, despite the fact that he was innocent. We hired an attorney mid-way through the case, and there was a night-and-day difference in the way his case was handled before we retained counsel and the way his case was handled after we retained counsel. He was ultimately unanimously acquitted by his panel.
From the beginning, the OCS seemed to be more interested in securing a conviction than uncovering the truth. For instance, the Investigator in the case scheduled a date for my son’s hearing before even concluding the investigation or formally charging him; if that doesn’t scream presumption of guilt, I don’t know what does. More telling is that there were many discrepancies and unanswered questions that the Investigator seemed eager to overlook, presumably due to incompetence and an overzealousness to prosecute. Stanford was even willing to violate federal privacy laws in order to secure a conviction. There’s a problem with the system when the investigator also acts as prosecutor and judge, and the University will break laws that were intended to protect students.
It was at this point that we hired an attorney who’s familiar with these kinds of cases to handle my son’s case. Even though we hired an attorney, the OCS still wouldn’t speak with our son’s legal counsel directly. Currently, lawyers are not allowed to represent their clients at hearing. Fortunately, my son’s public speaking skills are well-honed. However, we feel particularly sorry for the accused students who have a fear of public speaking or speak English as a second language. These students have no fighting chance in front of Stanford’s kangaroo court.
The major takeaway from our son’s case is that, without the benefit of an attorney, an innocent student can easily lose his or her case when denied basic protections of due process. He received a relatively fair trial towards the end, but only because he hired competent legal counsel to help him handle his case. In retrospect, hiring an attorney was the best decision we made in our son’s case, and we believe strongly that all Staford students must be provided access to legal counsel in order for the process to be fair. Currently, there seems to be a dual justice system for those students who have the means to hire an attorney versus those who do not. That does not reflect well on our University, and we believe strongly that it must be changed.
Stanford Parents and Alum
(OCS Case 2013)