There will be no indictment in David Josiah Lawson’s case according to Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office. The news was revealed today and comes a month before the two year mark of Lawson’s death.
Two weeks ago, a grand jury comprised of 19 (mostly white) Humboldt County residents convened to decide the fate of his case.
Lawson, a 19-year-old student at Humboldt State University, was killed at an off campus party April 2017. 23-year-old Kyle Zoellner, a local resident, was arrested at the scene of the crime.
Zoellner, who was injured and badly beaten when detained, was released five days later after a preliminary hearing.
Judge Dale Reinholtsen decided not to send the case to trial and cited a lack of evidence and conflicting testimony for his decision.
From the onset Lawson’s case was highly controversial. From the actions of police and first responders being called into question, to the abrupt resignation of Arcata’s Police Chief after mounting public pressure.
Retired FBI investigator Tom Parker was also brought on to the case by Lawson’s family. He terminated his contract with the city of Arcata and publicly shared APD was operating under a “lack of will” in Lawson’s case.
Interim APD Chief Richard Ehle handed what he called a finished case back to the D.A’s office Nov. 2018 for prosecuting. The D.A’s response was that certain investigative measures still needed to be done.
Four months later, a grand jury quietly convened in a Humboldt County courtroom, where jurors were presented with witnesses and the option to indict whoever was named as the suspect.
In Nov. 2018 when he presented the case to the D.A, Ehle is quoted saying, there is “unequivocal physical evidence linking a specific suspect to Lawson’s death,” (North Coast Journal).
So what happened?
The small town of Arcata, CA, which is nestled quietly behind four hours of winding roads, mountains and redwood tree’s is still a questionable place for people of color, especially Black.
Although a student murder has shocked students, parents and some of the community, we need to understand Humboldt County is a place of violence, outlaws and small town politics.
If you look on any local news platform in Humboldt County, you will see that violence engulfs the surrounding community. We can not expect the criminal justice system of a small white town to grant justice to a Black man, while their whole power structure is built off the murder and genocide of the indigenous community.
It is sad that a colonial statue can be removed from the towns square before white folks give justice to a Black student whose life was senselessly taken.
There is still a massive award being offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in Lawson’s case.