Justice for Josiah movement urges Humboldt County District Attorney to take action
A dark and densely-clouded evening marked the 21 month anniversary of David Josiah Lawson’s murder. On Jan. 15 at 5:30 p.m over 50 supporters of Justice For Josiah gathered in front of the Humboldt County Courthouse, where justice has yet to be served to the Lawson family.
“What brings us here tonight is love,” Renee Saucedo, a member of the steering committee for Centro Del Pueblo, said as the first speaker of the vigil. “Love for our people, love for our communities and resistance against racism, resistance against lies, resistance against a system that treats a family the way it has treated the Lawson family.”
It has been over nine weeks since the Arcata Police Department submitted its investigation of the stabbing death of David Josiah Lawson over to Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming. Lawson was stabbed multiple times at an off-campus house party on April 15, 2017, and no one has been charged for the crime.
“I remain hopeful,” Saucedo said. “But I am shocked that after all this time the investigation in the department of justice that has DNA conclusion and opinions with law enforcement officers that the Humboldt County DA hasn’t pressed charges and brought justice for this family.”
When asked about new incoming students at Humboldt State, Saucedo said they will have to fight and organize for justice like anywhere else. She said things can’t change unless students demand change.
“We are calling on DA Fleming to file charges now,” Saucedo said. “ And if she doesn’t then we as a community have to consider our options including exposing the negligence and abuse of power by using every strategy possible with love and respect that we will also try to hold them accountable. This is Charmaine’s (Lawson) wish and so it is my wish too.”
The new year marks the Humboldt County Courthouse as a new place for action for Lawson’s monthly vigils. Jill Larrabee, an organizer for Justice For Josiah who has been working side by side with Charmaine Lawson the last year, said the decision to switch to the courthouse was because the investigation is now with DA Fleming.
“We were going to Arcata City Hall because their investigation was so stalled and we needed to put pressure on the city itself,” Larrabee said. “Now that the investigation is handed over to DA Fleming it’s time to pressure her and we will be there until there is an arrest.”
Since the beginning of the case’s investigation there has been controversy involving how the APD handled the homicide. Tom Parker, a former FBI special investigator, was brought in to help but quickly resigned due to his frustrations with how the APD handled the case, with it being “clear they were holding back things and not telling me the truth.”
Former Arcata Police Chief, Thomas Chapman, also resigned and is currently in a lawsuit filed under Charmaine Lawson. Police Lieutenant Tod Dockweiler, Police Detective Eric Losey, Officer Krystle Armino, and City Manager Karen Diemer are also defendants.
Josiah’s criminal justice professor, Michihiro Clark Sugata, gave a speech that reflected the criminology major’s eagerness to learn and make a difference in the world.
“I remember the first day I met Josiah, he was intelligent, excited to be there and he just had this ease about him,” Sugata said. “As the weeks progress I became more and more impressed with Josiah in terms of having a real gravity about him, drawing people in.”
Sugata reminded the crowd that unfortunately, history shows us law and justice are not synonymous and one does not necessarily lead to the other. While reading a book about Baltimore and the death of Freddie Gray with his class, Sugata said he saw a clear engagement with Laswon taking in the material and asking himself ‘what’s it going to take to grow a better society?’ Sugata said he saw Lawson grow into that question throughout the 2016 fall semester.
“We have to find a way to bring Josiah’s question to light,” Sugata said. “We have to ask ‘what is it going to take?’ we need to center that and we really need to call for justice in ways that go beyond just following procedure. I’m not saying that’s not important but if history has shown us anything it’s justice requires bravery of everyday ordinary people.”