News Release

Faculty disappointed by lack of charges, justice in murder of Humboldt State student David Josiah Lawson

Humboldt County Grand Jury fails to issue indictments for Lawson’s April 2017 murder; CFA calls for improved campus safety for students of color

HUMBOLDT — The California Faculty Association is deeply disappointed by the Humboldt County Grand Jury’s failure to issue indictments in the murder of 19-year-old David Josiah Lawson. 

“David Josiah Lawson was our student and a vibrant member of the Humboldt State community. His life was cut short too soon, and it is shameful that justice has not yet been served in his death. Two years later, his mother and family still do not have resolution in this case, nor do his friends and faculty. Our community is grieving, and this latest news adds another layer of pain,” said Dr. Renée Byrd, CFA Chapter President at Humboldt State and an Assistant Professor of Sociology.

The recent decision by the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office and the Grand Jury is disappointing, but not surprising, said Dr. Cecil Canton, CFA’s Associate VP of Affirmative Action North and a Criminal Justice Professor at Sacramento State. “Unfortunately, the longer this case went unsolved, the less likely it appeared that anyone would be charged with Josiah’s murder. It has become apparent that the officials are not interested in holding anyone accountable for Josiah’s death.”

“This is yet another abrogation of the principles of fairness and justice, and an insulting and arrogant affirmation of a criminal justice system that dehumanizes, exploits, and devalues Black lives.”

David Josiah Lawson was a sophomore at Humboldt State when he was killed at a party near campus on April 15, 2017. Lawson was an intelligent and charismatic student who had been recruited to Humboldt during a college fair at his high school in a Southern California. He was not only a student at Humboldt State University, he was a member of the Cal State University system family. His death rocked the campus community and the CSU. A coalition of family, students, faculty, and advocates has been protesting for accountability and justice. 

CFA has been amplifying that message, and has repeatedly called on CSU Trustees to use its leverage as one of the largest employers in Humboldt County to spur action from police and the District Attorney, as well as to improve safety conditions for members of the university community, especially students of color at Humboldt and on all 23 CSU campuses.

“As our CSU student population grows increasingly more diverse, we have to ensure that there are resources for them, that there is a plan to address racist incidents on campuses, and that work is being done to make our campuses more inclusive,” said Sharon Elise, CFA’s Associate Vice President of Affirmative Action South and a CSU San Marcos Sociology Professor. “David Josiah Lawson was a student at a campus in an isolated area with a complex history of racialized violence. He died a horrific death. We will continue to do all we can to help his family find justice, and to ensure our students of color return home safely to their families.” 

To learn more about CFA’s effort to seek Justice for Josiah, click here.

ABOUT THE CALIFORNIA FACULTY ASSOCIATION: CFA represents more than 28,000 tenured and tenure-track instructional faculty, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches on the 23 campuses of the California State University system, from Humboldt State in the north, to San Diego State in the south. Learn more about CFA at


Contact: Lisa Cohen ‪310-395-2544, Niesha Fritz ‪916-281-8785