McGeorge School of Law

Cobain Case Confounds Students

Detective Tom Grant and Professor Joe Taylor

Detective Tom Grant and Professor Joe Taylor

McGeorge students in this spring’s Trial Advocacy course got a chance to try a fictional case based on the controversial 1994 suicide of rock star Kurt Cobain.

Professor Joe Taylor, who has had nine of his case files published for law school usage by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, created a wrongful death civil case using evidence gathered by a Los Angeles detective originally hired by Cobain’s widow, rocker Courtney Love.

The wrongful death suit (Gilbert v. O’Neil) pitted the daughter of a dead rock star against her mother in a fight for a $25 million estate. The case was tried 14 times in the law school’s courtroom, the final time with detective Grant in the audience.

“It was really well-done,” said Grant. “I was so impressed, even though they did make my character out to be motivated by money. I understand that they wanted to balance the case because most of the evidence points to murder.”

Grant spoke at length about the real case after the final trial. He has waged a 15-year battle to have Seattle authorities, who declared Cobain’s death a suicide, change the death certificate to state the cause of death as undetermined. Grant points to inconsistencies in the alleged suicide note, attempted personal credit card usage after Cobain’s death, the level of heroin in his body, no fingerprints on the shotgun that killed the rocker, and Cobain’s plans to seek a divorce and retire – all as factors that call into question the quick decision by Seattle police to declare the death a suicide.

“It is an interesting case, no question,” said Taylor. “I got hooked on it and I know some of the Superior Court judges who heard our trials this spring found it very intriguing.”

Taylor plans to revise his case file based on feedback from this spring’s trials, reduce it from 160 pages down to 100, and submit it to NITA for publication.