Gina Grant was only 14-years-old when she bludgeoned her alcoholic and abusive mom to death with a lead crystal candlestick in Lexington, South Carolina on September 13, 1990. After the murder, she cleaned up the area and then positioned her mother’s hands to make it look like she had stuck the knife in herself, an absurd scenario. At the time of her death, Dorothy Mayfield’s blood alcohol level was so high that she may have been passed out at the time of the murder. The story Gina told police changed quite a bit before she ultimately admitted to attacking her mother and trying to cover it up. Four years later, Gina Grant was making headlines again — for something completely different.
In 1995, The Boston Globe published a profile on the bright young girl highlighting the difficulties she’d overcome as an orphan. The resilient teen talked about losing her father at 11 to cancer but said the circumstances of her mother’s death were just too painful to speak of. Gina had excelled at high school, participating in tennis and tutoring disadvantaged children. Her acceptance was rescinded, however, after the university received an anonymous package containing newspaper clippings about her mother’s murder.
By the time she was admitted to Harvard, Gina had already served her time: 8 months of a 12-month sentence in a juvenile corrections facility. After her sentence was complete, she got permission to move to Cambridge with her paternal aunt and uncle to rebuild her life. Although in some states the young teen would have been tried as an adult on a murder charge, Gina was considered a minor for her sentencing. Her boyfriend at the time also served time for being an accessory to murder after the fact.
Gina’s lawyers had argued that the teen had killed Dorothy Mayfield because she drank too much and was physically abusive to Gina, a fact her older sister corroborated. Because “guilty” juveniles are not considered convicted, but instead are labeled adjudicated delinquents, she technically had no criminal convictions on her record.
Harvard caught a lot of heat for their decision to deny acceptance to a young person who had already been punished for her crime, and for accepting her at all without knowing her background. Along with Harvard, Columbia University and Barnard College also rescinded Gina’s admission. She ended up entering Tufts University’s 1999 class. The rest of Gina’s life has faded from the public eye. She’s disappeared in anonymity. Maybe she’s changed her name.
The rescindences sparked a fierce media debate about who really deserves a college education. Do people who have served their time for murder deserve the same educational rights as anyone else? This question gets a little more tricky when considering the law as it relates to minors, and to the question of how much an adult should continue to pay for crimes committed while still a child. Something like shoplifting or other petty crimes are things a young person can move past, can leave behind in some capacity. Killing someone, especially your own mother, is an act that lingers, no matter how much you change. The time taken can’t be given back, the pain can’t be rescinded. It colors everything, even if you’ve paid your penance to the state, and constructed a new life built on a different identity.
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