Update on Widener Law Prof Lawrence Connell

Ashley Thorne

Dr. Lawrence Connell of Widener Law in Delaware, who is under disciplinary procedures following student complaints about things he said in his criminal law course, has waived his right to be present at the university hearing on June 6. In his letter of today (which redacts identifiers of the complainant), he writes that he will not be present due to the recent death of his daughter and the critical illness of his brother but trusts that the legal documents on his behalf will serve as ample evidence in his favor.

These documents are available here, here, and here, and NAS conducted a brief interview with Connell here. Two new documents are now available, affidavits by two of Connell’s students, Danielle Oppenheim and Samuel Elbardissi. Oppenheim says she was called into a meeting with the Vice-Dean J. Patrick Kelly, who questioned her about the allegations and warned her to keep the meeting confidential. Thomas Neuberger, Connell’s lawyer, says, “we have reliable reasons to believe that Ms. Oppenheim was not the only student who was summoned, interviewed and, after providing a statement favorable to Prof. Connell and contravening the complainants’ version of events, was directed by administrators not to discuss with or disclose to anyone the details of their conversation.”

One of the most publicized charges against Connell was that he had used the name of the law school dean Linda Ammons, a black woman, in his lecture hypotheticals when illustrating the difference between murder and intent to murder. Connell believes the complaints against him originated with Dean Ammons, and that she is accusing him of racism and sexism in his teaching.

Danielle Oppenheim responds to this allegation in Connell’s defense:

At no point did Connell ever say that he actually wanted to shoot the dean, that he wanted us to shoot the dean or that it would be good for the school that she was shot. The fact that she is the dean and known by all students, if only by name and position, was the only reason that she was used in these hypotheticals. She was not targeted because she is a woman or because she is black. Neither her sex nor race were ever mentioned in these hypotheticals nor were they ever pointed out as a factor or material fact for the attempted crime.

Because Connell used the dean in his hypotheticals, I could quickly remember where along the line of committing the crime one would need to be in order to be legally attempting the crime. These hypotheticals were extremely useful when I was studying for Connell’s final and when I was actually taking the final.

Connell’s waiver requests that the hearing be open to the public and that all statements be made under oath. According to Neuberger, the university’s procedure does not provide for either condition for such hearings.  

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