Last week, The New York Times published the sad story of an imprisoned woman who rehabilitated herself to become a great historian and author. According to the Times, this woman, Michelle Jones, became “a published scholar of American history while behind bars, and presented her work by videoconference to historians’ conclaves and the Indiana General Assembly. … Ms. Jones also wrote several dance compositions and historical plays, one of which is slated to open at an Indianapolis theater in December.”
After two decades in prison, Jones was released and selected as a potential candidate for a history doctorate at Harvard. But sadly, the intolerant administrators at Harvard overturned her candidacy. Why? Because she allegedly “played down her crime” in her application. It wasn’t Harvard’s fault, mind you — it was the fault of benighted conservatives, the Times reports:
While top Harvard officials typically rubber-stamp departmental admissions decisions, in this case the university’s leadership — including the president, provost, and deans of the graduate school — reversed one, according to the emails and interviews, out of concern that her background would cause a backlash among rejected applicants, conservative news outlets or parents of students.
Jones, says the Times, is a victim: she was impregnated at 14 “after what she called non-consensual sex with a high-school senior.” Her mother viciously beat her, and she ended up in group homes.
Then she murdered her four-year-old.
The details of this unpleasant crime are buried some 13 paragraphs into the story. Here’s what Jones did: she beat her son and then abandoned him for days, returning to her apartment to find him dead. She then buried him. Jones received 50 years in prison, but got out after 20. In her application to Harvard, she reportedly only stated that as a teenager she left her son at home and he died, and that she grieves for him. At no point, the Times says, did she “detail her involvement in the crime.”
Nonetheless, the rest of the Times article is dedicated to telling us about this rare, gifted genius’ history projects. Not the rest of Jones’ story. That was left for John Sexton of Hot Air to do:
According to court documents, Jones left her 4-year-old son alone to attend a weekend-long “theater network conference” in Detroit with a friend. She told the friend she had placed a babysitter in charge of her son. But after that weekend no one ever saw the boy again. A few weeks later her landlord noticed “hundreds of flies covering the inside front bedroom window.” He went inside and discovered an empty child’s bedroom with a strong smell of urine. Jones told the landlord her son was wetting the bed. But after she moved out the landlord discovered a “brown stain” on the floor.
Around this time, Jones was also seen repeatedly cleaning the inside and outside of her car. She told friends her son was living with his father. More than a year and a half later, Jones admitted to a friend that she had returned after the theater conference, found her son dead and taken his body to a wooded area to bury it. A month later she checked into a mental health center where she confessed to finding Brandon dead. Police investigated but were never able to find his body. Jones later admitted she had misled the police about the location of the body.
Months later Jones returned to work and changed her insurance coverage to show she had no dependents. More than a year passed before she admitted to another friend that she had beaten Brandon before leaving him alone in the apartment. At this point, it had been more than three years since the boy’s death.
Finally in late 1996, more than four years after Brandon’s death, Jones was charged with murder. As mentioned above, she was found guilty and given a 50-year sentence. But the story actually gets worse. Approximately two years into her sentence, Jones filed an appeal which argued that her conviction should be overturned on the grounds that Brandon’s body had never been recovered. …
You won’t find any of those details in the Times report, and for good reason: most people think that people who apparently beat the hell out of four-year-olds and then leave them to die in puddles of their own urine shouldn’t be given scholarships at Harvard.
And herein lies the problem. There’s not a lot of remorse in Jones’ words regarding her son. And that does raise questions of honesty generally, and questions of morality as well. The Times did its readers a disservice in going after Harvard for exercising basic care and judgment with regard to a child-murderer who reportedly tacitly fibbed on her application.