A message from Matthew’s wife Stacia:
As most of you are aware, the first anniversary of matthew’s death is on june 5th. I would like those of you who are moved to do so to join matthew’s family to mourn together this june 5th. I’ve heard that there is going to be a rally agasinst the war that morning in San Francisco at the U.N. plaza at 11:00. If Matthew were alive he would be attending this rally. I invite you to attend in his name. At 3:00 we will be meeting at the Chapel of the Chimes in the room where Matthew’s urn is. Rabbi David-who many of you remember from shiva and the memorial service, will be there to lead us in some traditional and non traditional rituals. There will be a potluck immedietely following at my home 388 49th st between shafter and lawton in oakland. please call 547-4711 if you have any questions.
I also wanted to let you all know that on the first year anniversary on the jewish calender a small group of friends and family went to court and met the woman that killed Matthew. Its too hard for me to write about. here’s John Shuirba’s account:
I wanted to fill you in on what happened earlier this week. On Tuesday May 25th there was a hearing for [name witheld] who is the person who killed Matthew. The day started with a meeting with a really great guy from the DA’s office who told us that they had tried every angle to find some way to charge her with anything more severe than driving without a license, but that given the fact that there were no witnesses to the accident, they could not. I felt sure that were really doing whatever they could to help. He instructed Stacia to speak with Stuart, the DA who would be in the courtroom with her for the case, who also turned out to be very helpful and sympathetic, and advised us on how to proceed to make an impact on the hearing without doing anything to endanger the case.
What happened was that the DA decided that he would ask the judge if, given the circumstances, Stacia could give a statement. When the judge called the case, the public defender asked for “the usual” in this case– reduction from a misdemeanor to an infraction, and the defendant pays the fine and goes home. However, the judge agreed to let Stacia make her statement, while a few members of Matthew’s family and friends (including Lila) stood and held up pictures. Stacia somehow was able to stand up and tell the courtroom just what had been done to her life and her family that day, as a result of the defendant deciding to break the law and drive a car. It was incredible intense, and everyone from the macho bailiff to the steel-faced defendant to the judge himself was in tears. However, the judge took a few minutes for everyone to regain composure, and asked us not to feel slighted by the decision he was about to announce. He ruled to reduce the crime from a misdemeanor to an infraction and give her a $211 fine, the minimum possible punishment for driving without a license.
I wonder now what kept me from shouting obscenities at the judge after this totally unconscionable act. All I can think to say, is that I was in a state of shock, really. It didn’t hit me until the DA ushered us back into the jury room, and expressed his utter disbelief at the heartless, inexplicable, and downright immoral outcome of the hearing. The DA went over the possibilities with us, telling us basically what the judges options were, and how he was well within his authority and thus an appeal would be fairly senseless. He said that the judge had the latitude to reduce the charge from a crime to an infraction (as he did) and had he kept it as a crime (misdemeanor), he could have given her some combination of jail time (up to 6 months) and probation (up to 2 years), but for some inexplicable reason he reduced the charge to an infraction. The DA asked rhetorically, I wonder what the “special circumstances” would have to be for this judge to consider keeping the charge as a misdemeanor.
On a positive note, what did come from this awful day, was that [name witheld] turned to Stacia and apologized, asking her to realize that it was “an accident”. It’s lame that it took a year, and it took us confronting her at her hearing for her to come forward with this apology, but I think it was an important moment for Stacia.
Now, in retrospect I wish that I had thought to ask all of you to come, and stand there in solidarity for Matthew. And had I known, that this was the end of the matter I certainly would have. However, information on the subject was incredibly sketchy, Stacia didn’t even know about it until the week before, and even then it was described as “pre-trial” so we assumed that we would make the real statement at the actual trial.
However, I feel that what we can do is to begin a barrage of letters to the judge condemning his unconscionable ruling, and promising to do whatever we can to be sure that he is not elected for another term. I will gather the information and write up a draft letter, that I encourage you to rewrite and send to him. I have this dream of thousands of letters flooding his office, affecting his sleep and eventually forcing him to step down.
And Stacia finishes:
I want to add that it *was* an important moment for me when she apologized. She told me “i’m hurting too” and in that moment I believed her. The DA said that he’s seen homocide cases where the defendant gets life in prison and the victim’s family still doesn’t feel that justice has been served. That really resonated with me. Justice, in this case, can never be served-because the only justice would be that Matthew gets to be alive again. If you would like to complain about the verdict to Judge True, John will be sending a follow up email about how to do so sometime soon. I look forward to connecting with you all on june 5th. please forward this email to anyone that may not already be on the list that might want this information.