Justice for Josiah: Four years later, the fight continues

Charmaine Lawson set her watch for a 10 minute mile and departed from the Arcata City Hall toward Humboldt Bay Trail. Four miles there and back. One mile for every year the justice system has failed David Josiah Lawson. 

More than 100 community members joined Charmaine Lawson on April 17 in running, walking, biking and skating to mark the four-year anniversary of her son’s death. Josiah ran track and loved the outdoors and Charmaine wanted to honor him through this run. 

She has been running since she lost him and set a personal goal of 10 minute miles for the run. Though she was three minutes off from meeting her goal, Charmaine feels this is representative of her journey seeking justice for Josiah. She’s reminded that her fight is not in vain. 

Josiah Lawson was a Humboldt State University sophomore when he was fatally stabbed on April 15, 2017. A National Police Foundation report released Feb. 20, 2020 concluded the city had not provided appropriate leadership, planning and training to respond or investigate “the complicated and chaotic homicide scene.” Four years later, his case remains unsolved after charges against the only named suspect were dismissed. 

“Come forward, explain your side of the story, confess to your crime and accept your punishment,” Andre Ramos, mentor of Josiah Lawson, said after the run. “The Lawson family is a forgiving family, a loving family, and they just want to see justice served.” 

After the run, people reconvened in the Arcata Plaza for speakers, music and resources provided by donations from the local community, friends and local businesses. Clothes donations, gift cards and about 40 backpacks filled with toiletries were handed out in honor of Josiah Lawson’s giving nature. 

Dillon Harp attended the vigil despite never having met Josiah. Originally from Texas, Harp points out how few and far between Black spaces are in Humboldt. He noted that the resources provided on the plaza were a material manifestation of the love within the community. 

As a Black man in Humboldt County, Harp recognizes that Josiah’s injustice is racially motivated and very well could have happened to him. 

Charmaine, among other community members, does not feel as though the current district attorney is representative of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) in Humboldt County. 

“Maggie Fleming ran unopposed. She’s up for reelection next year and we need students to register to vote,” Charmaine Lawson said. “We need the community to, if they’re not registered to vote, to register to vote so that we can get someone on that ticket to run for DA that has integrity and cares about Black and Brown people in Humboldt County.”

A press release from the Humboldt County District Attorney on March 13, 2019 revealed that “The jury received testimony from 25 witnesses, including experts in forensics and DNA,” but still was unable to “indict any person in the stabbing death of David Josiah Lawson. Therefore, no charges will be filed in the case.” 

Charmaine Lawson is determined to continue seeking justice for Josiah and keep her son’s legacy alive. She’s eternally grateful for the support she’s received and will continue coming up to Humboldt for the monthly vigils that stopped due to COVID-19. 

“I’ve been doing this for four years, back and forth to Northern California,” Charmaine said. “It’s emotionally exhausting, but I’m going to keep going. I’m not gonna stop until I get justice for my son.”

Featured image by Lupita Rivera

Images by Ricardo Lara Nava, Dakota Cox and Lupita Rivera

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