Following a three-week trial, a Harris county civil jury cleared Baylor University and two former football players of responsibility in connection with an alleged sexual assault. The case, which took place in the 234th Civil Court of Judge Lauren Reeder, revolved around a former Baylor equestrian, who used the pseudonym Annie Andrews when filing the suit, alleging that two football players sexually assaulted her in her dorm room in 2017.
The lawsuit asserted that Baylor University knew that the plaintiff's assigned dorm was dangerous, and withheld that information. The suit argued that Baylor University had been negligent, and actively hid the dangers of the campus from its enrolled students. During the course of the trial it was revealed that a Title IX investigation found that both Tre'von Lewis and John Arthur knew or should have known that Andrews was incapacitated, and found them responsible for engaging in nonconsensual sexual contact. It was also revealed that a Baylor police officer told the football players that she wanted to keep the event quiet "for the football team." No criminal charges were ever brought against the players.
The jury's verdict was unanimous in finding both Baylor University and football players not liable. The jury deliberated for less than four hours.
After the ruling, Baylor University provided a statement to Defector: "This was an important decision that recognized Baylor is not the same institution as it was three, four and even five years ago. We remain confident in the safety and security of the Baylor campus, in our training and education efforts related to sexual and interpersonal violence, and in our policies and personnel when such unfortunate incidents involving young adults do occur.”
The plaintiff's lawyers provided the following statement to Defector: "We are disappointed in the verdict, but thankful to the Court for its time and attention to this important issue and -- most importantly -- proud of our client for her strength and courage."
Following several high-profile sexual assault cases—which ultimately resulted in the ousting of university president Ken Starr, head football coach Art Briles, and athletic director Ian McCaw—the university hired the law firm Pepper Hamilton to investigate the school's repeated failures to protect its students from sexual assault. The results of that investigation have not been released publicly, though in 2016 the university revealed that at least 17 students had reported being raped by 19 football players since 2011.
In closing statements yesterday, the plaintiff's lawyer, Worth D. Carroll, argued that ,"Bad roots produce bad fruits produce rotten leaves. What was different about Baylor in 2017 than in 2013?" he said. "To uproot a bad tree takes work. You got to dig. You got to upturn the soil."