Lauren Clark is a hair stylist in D.C. When a stranger sexually assaulted her in 2013, it sparked a years-long courtroom saga and a campaign for justice. Her story started The Post’s Amy Brittain on a reporting journey that has lasted for nearly three years — one that played out in the middle of a larger cultural reckoning.
(Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)
“I deserve to feel safe, and so does this community. How many people have to hold their sisters, their friends, their lovers or their daughters while they weep because of the things that this man has done?”
Listen to Lauren, in an excerpt from Chapter 1
“This man said himself that he’s sick, and he told you that he has a problem.”
“Why don’t you take his word for it? I certainly do.”
When Carole Griffin, a baker in Birmingham, Ala., read The Post’s story about Clark in 2019, it prompted her to reveal an unlikely connection.
In an email to The Post, Griffin said that she had information pertinent to that story. And later, she alleged that a prominent figure in the D.C. criminal justice system had committed a sexual assault decades earlier.
(Jared Ragland for The Washington Post)
“Hi Amy. My name is Carole, and I have some information that may be pertinent to your recent article. It is very sensitive information for me implicating a person in your story.”
Listen to Carole, in an excerpt from Chapter 1
“I appreciate your reporting and the work you do around this issue. It’s truly making a difference for survivors like myself.”
“In fact, the grace it has afforded me has compelled me to pay it forward. It is the inspiration for my reaching out to you. Best to you. Carole.”
The search for evidence
What does it take to report a story like this one?
Investigating a sexual assault allegation requires a high level of sensitivity, and before these stories can ever be published, they go through a rigorous process of vetting.
On-the-record interviews, family photographs and decades-old journals all served as key evidence in attempting to corroborate Griffin’s account.
Griffin said her family grew to know Truman A. Morrison III through his sister and that she met him in person on a trip to Washington, D.C., in 1973, when she was 13 and he was 29. The families grew close and began to vacation together, including a 1976 trip to rural southwest Virginia to a property owned by Morrison’s family. Griffin and Morrison are pictured below, and Morrison is pictured with his parents when he became a judge with the D.C. Superior Court in 1979.
The support systems around a survivor can often influence their decision to come forward. So what happens when a family has to reckon with the consequences of long-kept secrets?
“Canary: The Washington Post Investigates” is hosted by Amy Brittain. Production by Reena Flores and Bishop Sand. Sound design by Bishop Sand. Editing and audio direction by Madhulika Sikka. Additional editing by Jeff Leen, David Fallis, Jess Stahl and Laura Michalski. Data reporting by Steven Rich. Research by Julie Tate and Madeleine Davison. Maura Judkis co-authored the initial story on Lauren Clark’s campaign for justice. Linah Mohammad co-produced an audio version of that story. Project editing by Courtney Kan. Legal review by Jim McLaughlin and Jay Kennedy.
“Canary,” sung by Joy Williams, is written by Williams, Caitlyn Smith and Angelo Petraglia. Theme music by Ted Muldoon.
Page design and development by Clare Ramirez. Art direction and logo design by Courtney Kan. Logo illustration by Ariel Sun. Animation by Kolin Pope. Photos by Jared Ragland and Salwan Georges. Photo editing by Nick Kirkpatrick. Design editing by Greg Manifold, Matthew Callahan and Lucio Villa.
Special thanks to Jenn Abelson, Jerry Brewer, Lillian Cunningham, Adam Kushner, Michael Kranish, Anu Narayanswamy, Neema Roshania Patel, Maggie Penman, Martine Powers and Julie Vitkovskaya.
Amy Brittain is a reporter for The Washington Post's investigative team. Her coverage has included investigative reporting on sexual harassment, criminal justice issues and the intersection between President Trump's real estate empire and U.S. government business.
Courtney Kan is a projects editor leading innovative cross-platform storytelling and strategy for The Washington Post's enterprise reporting. She joined The Post in 2016 as a newsroom designer focused on developing reader experiences for Web, print and distributed platforms, including Apple News.