In writing a tribute to Matthew Shepard on October 12, the tenth anniversary of his death, we noted that it was Matthew’s parents who told the presiding judge at the sentencing hearing for Aaron McKinney and Russel Henderson, the two men found guilty of murdering him, that they wanted no more lives lost. As a result of this compassionate plea, McKinney and Henderson were in fact, sentenced to life in prison. The Associated Press is reporting that Jane and
Joseph Clementi, the parents of Tyler Clementi, the gay Rutgers student who leaped to his death off the George Washington Bridge in September, 2010, have now made a similar plea. You may recall that it was the filming and broadcasting over the internet of a sexual encounter Tyler had with another male student that drove him to take his own life. This coming February, Tyler’s roommate, Dharun Rav, will stand trial for invasion of privacy and committing a “hate crime of bias intimidation.”
In a statement issued this past Monday, the Clementi’s state that this case should not be about whether or not Ravi’s actions were responsible for their son’s death, but whether Ravi was guilty of criminal behavior. To put it more succinctly, Jane and Joseph Clementi want justice, not revenge.
How refreshing to hear of such a plea from a victim’s family in a country where public lynching still exists, hidden under the subterfuge of capital punishment.
In a strategy aimed at proving that Tyler was never intimidated by his roommate, Ravi’s attorney have requested access to Tyler personal writings. Speaking for the Clementis, attorney Paul Mainardi applauded Judge Glenn Berman’s ruling that Tyler’s private journal and notes are not admissible in court. As the Clementis pointed out,
“Tyler is not on trial in this case. Despite some media narratives to the contrary, the criminal case is not about whether the roommate’s acts
caused Tyler to commit suicide. The criminal case is about the roommate’s conduct. Legal accountability does not necessarily require the imposition of a harsh penalty in this case.”
It would appear that the Clementis understand that Tyler was still struggling with his sexual orientation. At the time of his suicide, he had yet to come out of the proverbial closet. Ravi, from the Clementis’ perspective, cannot be held responsible for driving Tyler to suicide, but he must be held accountable for denying Tyler his right to privacy.