MU campus a possible location for trial in racial discrimination case against MU
It's possible that a trial alleging racial discrimination against the University of Missouri could happen on its home turf.
Possible venues for an upcoming trial in the racial discrimination lawsuit against MU by a former assistant track coach include the MU campus.
Ideas for alternative locations for the Dec. 10 trial were discussed Tuesday by Circuit Judge Jeff Harris and attorneys in the case because Harris said the jury box in the 3 West courtroom in the Boone County Courthouse could only accommodate four jurors due to COVID-19 limitations.
Carjay Lyles, a Black former MU track and field assistant coach filed a lawsuit in 2018 against the University of Missouri System Board of Curators, head track coach Brett Halter and associate athletics director for compliance Mitzi Clayton alleging racial discrimination from 2013-16.
The lawsuit alleges "a continuous practice of exhibiting discriminatory and demeaning behavior toward black athletes and staff members, including Plaintiff,” in violation of Missouri’s Human Rights Act.
The lawsuit alleges that from Lyles’ first day, Halter referred to Black athletes and staff members as “you people.”
Lyles claimed in the lawsuit that in 2015, Halter said Lyles should “lay grass seed” at Halter’s house.
When Lyles declined, Halter reportedly said, “I live at MKT and KT Trail, and if I have one more K, you sure won’t be coming because three Ks in a row, there won’t be any of you coming.”
Lyles is now an assistant coach at Mississippi State.
None of the attorneys had objections to the idea of holding the trial at MU when Harris suggested it. The university and its personnel are represented by Colly Durley and Phebe Lamar.
"I get that it's kind of like going into the belly of the beast," said Marc Middleton, an attorney for Lyles.
Other possible venues for the trial discussed during the hearing on Zoom included the Armory Sports and Recreation Center because of its proximity to the courthouse, Harris said.
"We don't need to decide today," Harris said. "We have larger churches, for example."
Another attorney for Lyles, Brittany Mehl, asked for approval for some witnesses who otherwise would be traveling by plane to the trial be allowed to appear by video link, because of health concerns.
An alternate location could complicate that, Harris said. Lyles' attorneys said they could provide the equipment and ensure the internet service was adequate.
Lyles' attorneys also require the attorneys for the university to provide phone numbers of witnesses, Mehl said. The MU attorneys said they could provide them later that day.
Legal cases have been heard on campus before, but none involving the university, said MU spokesman Christian Basi.
The trial is scheduled for seven days, with jury selection starting Dec.9. The first of three pre-trial conferences is scheduled for Nov. 23.