Murder victim’s family, friends object to defense witness’ College of Charleston visit
Some family members and friends of College of Charleston graduate Peyton Tuthill are outraged that Adrian Raine, who testified as an expert witness for the defense in the trial of the man who brutally raped and murdered her, will be speaking on campus next month.
A British psychologist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Raine’s research focuses on biological and social factors in criminal behavior. He testified on behalf of Donta Page, who is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for Tuthill’s 1999 murder in Colorado. A jury found Page guilty of first-degree murder. A three-judge panel considered the death penalty, but opted instead for a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
According to a Nov. 18, 2000, story in The Denver Post, Raine said that the frontal lobes of Page’s brain were misshapen, identical to the frontal lobes of 41 murderers Raine had examined. The frontal lobes control impulsive and violent behavior.
College leaders said they would not cancel Raine’s appearance, citing academic freedom. Tuthill’s best friend and mother said they are angry and deeply saddened because Raine’s appearance on campus will sully the wonderful memories of Peyton’s years there.
Ryan Nelson, who graduated from the college with Tuthill in 1997 and was her friend and roommate at the time of her murder, said “my blood boiled” when she learned that Raine would be speaking in Charleston next month.
Raine is promoting his new book, “The Anatomy of Violence,” in which he discusses Page, and Tuthill’s murder. Nelson said Raine will make money selling books that contain the story of Tuthill’s murder.
The murder was brutal, she said. Page left their home after restraining Tuthill, then returned and murdered her. “He didn’t snap,” said Nelson, who was not home when Tuthill was killed. He chose to murder Tuthill. It had nothing to do with a troubled childhood or brain chemistry.
“This guy is making money off Peyton’s death,” Nelson said. “I think it’s just in poor taste.”
College of Charleston philosophy professor Thomas Nadelhoffer, who invited Raine to campus, invited Nelson to attend Raine’s presentation. He also offered Nelson, who works in Charleston as a public relations professional, the opportunity to address his students before Raine arrives.
Nelson said she’s not inclined to take him up on his offer, but she hasn’t totally closed the door on the possibility.
Raine, who is out of the country on sabbatical, answered some questions by email. He said he would be willing not to discuss the Page case if that is something Nadelhoffer wants. He also said he doesn’t get a lot of negative reaction to his work from crime victims. The most common concern about his work is the civil liberties issues that are raised in identifying people as biologically violence-prone.
Nadelhoffer said he didn’t know when he invited Raine to speak at the college that Raine had testified in Page’s murder trial. “I never knew there was a College of Charleston connection to the victim,” said Nadelhoffer, who specializes in neuroethics. “I invited him because he was the world’s leading expert on neurobiology of crime.”
Nadelhoffer said Raine’s visit was designed to teach students in his freshman seminar about the scientific aspects of criminal behavior. But, Raine’s Nov. 14 talk will be open to the public.
College spokesman Mike Robertson said the college values and respects the tenets of academic freedom, which allow faculty members and students to engage in intellectual conversations without threat of censorship or reprisal. “While the college acknowledges and regrets the very sensitive connection between the work of guest speaker Adrian Raine and the case of murder victim Peyton Tuthill, the college must also respect the academic freedom of our faculty to pursue their teaching and research without undue restrictions.”
Robertson also said Raine will be paid a $500 honorarium and up to $1,500 for travel expenses for his visit to the college. None of the money will come from state funds.
Peyton Tuthill’s mother, Pat Tuthill, said her daughter’s college years were happy. And family members and friends have established a scholarship in her honor there, as well as set up a memorial at the Chi Omega sorority house. “I don’t want to see her defiled at the place she so dearly loved.”
Tuthill knows the college won’t cancel Raine’s visit. But officials have assured her that Raine will not do a book signing. Still, she questions the purpose of Raine’s visit there. “I’m disappointed there wasn’t more due diligence before making the decision.”
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.