The trial of the man charged with killing an Eastern Michigan University student in December is underway at Washtenaw County Trial Court on East Huron Street.

Orange Taylor III, 21, from Southfield, is charged with open counts of murder – meaning a jury can charge Taylor with either first- or second-degree murder if he’s found guilty – in the December death of EMU student Laura Dickinson.

Blaine Longsworth, the prosecutor in the case, said in his opening argument Monday that Taylor killed Dickinson in “every woman’s nightmare come true.”

Taylor, a former EMU student is charged with intent to commit sexual penetration, home invasion and larceny in a building in addition to the murder charge.

Prosecutors used DNA testing, surveillance camera footage, a bag of gifts and a black hooded sweatshirt that Taylor wore during the night in question to show Taylor was present in Dickinson’s room on Dec. 13.

While investigating, police found both the hooded sweatshirt and a bag of gifts at Taylor’s home. Longsworth said Taylor stole the bag of gifts from Dickinson’s room, and that the gifts had been given to Dickinson during a Secret Santa party earlier that evening.

Multiple witnesses said they didn’t think Dickinson and Taylor had met before the night in question.

Taylor’s defense attorney, Alvin Keel, acknowledged that Taylor had been in Dickinson’s room that evening. But Keel argued it couldn’t be proven beyond reasonable doubt that Taylor actually murdered Dickinson.

Keel said Dickinson’s body showed no physical signs of harm, citing the autopsy report, which listed “probable asphyxia” as a cause of death.

“(The autopsy) did not say asphyxia,” Keel said. “It simply said probable. Probable is one of those terms which does not meet the standard of guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”

Keel said Dickinson had cardiac problems in 2005. He then suggested that Dickinson might have been sick the week of her death.

Explaining Taylor’s involvement in the case, Keel said his client had been smoking marijuana with friends in another dorm and later wandered off by himself to find more when he wandered into Dickinson’s room. Keel said Taylor found Dickinson on the floor “in a compromising position” and ejaculated on her. Keel said that doesn’t mean Taylor raped or killed Dickinson, though.

“(Physical evidence) doesn’t even mean you touched the person,” he said.

Keel finished his arguments by saying that Dickinson lived in a room next door to two girls who were in the dorm the night she died. Keel said neither of Dickinson’s neighbors heard any suspicious noises that Dec. 13 night.

Among those who have testified for the prosecution thus far are Dickinson’s boyfriend Travis Scott, Dickinson’s rowing teammate Maria Clary and EMU custodian Michelle Lockwood, the person who first discovered Dickinson dead in her dorm room.

Following the opening arguments Monday, Tina Taylor, Orange Taylor’s mother, said her son is “doing pretty good,” given the circumstances.

“We’ve obviously never been through anything like this before,” said Taylor, who added that she gets to see her son a couple times a week. “We’re hopeful that we’ll get justice.”

Taylor’s family took up one row of seats along the right side of the courtroom. Dickinson’s family – including her mother and father – sat on the other side of the room took up three rows.

Judge Archie Brown is presiding over the case, which is expected to continue throughout the week at Washtenaw County Trial Court.

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