February 11, 2006

No end to pain, no hint of justice

Matt Lewis was beaten to death more than three years ago.

My heart broke again when I read today's Lakeland Ledger article, but Matt's family faces the pain and sadness every day. May they find peace in knowing they have done all within their power to honor Matt and his life.

The Lewises are my friends. We lived next door to them when Matt was only pre-school age, and we sometimes watched one or all three of the boys when needed.

Bob and Cathy were wonderful, loving parents who did all the right things in raising their sons, spending countless hours of involvement with their education, sports and scouting, including projects for the Eagle Scout award, for example. They taught their kids, and other children as well, to respect others and to play by the rules.

Yet the rules haven't applied to Matt's death. Neither those who killed him nor the criminal "justice" system seem to be accountable. I won't even pretend to have an unbiased opinion. So you decide:

  • Matthew Lewis, 18, died after attending a friend's Nov. 16, 2002 birthday party in Tampa.
  • Eyewitnesses said the former wrestling team captain and 2002 graduate of Bartow High School was trying to break up a fight over spilled beer.
  • An autopsy report listed Lewis' death as "homicide beaten by other(s)."
  • However, the two suspects in the attack -- Ryan Racine and Jeremy Ray -- face charges of misdemeanor battery, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail.
  • Prosecutors say they could not seek more serious charges because they were "unable to determine who threw the fatal blow.''
Believe it or not, there's a video tape of events that night, including comments made following the beating:
Esparza can be heard saying, "I thought we killed the kid because we were beating the (expletive) out of him."

He also said "we were beating the (expletive) out of him for like a whole minute" and the kid's face "looked like he was dead."

Later, during a deposition, Esparza -- who described himself as being "best friends" with Ray through high school -- was shown the videotape.

He agreed that was his voice but said he didn't know what "kid" he was referring to that night. "I really don't remember," he said.

Articles and photos:

Update, Feb. 3, 2007 . . . .

BARTOW - Lakeland residents Bob and Cathy Lewis saw sentences handed down Thursday for the two men who brutally beat and stomped their youngest son to death.

Both men got the maximum allowable sentence, but the Lewises said they don't feel that they saw justice.

Ryan Christopher Racine and Jeremy Vincent Ray were charged with misdemeanors in the death of 18-year-old Bartow High School graduate Matthew Lewis. Racine, 25, was found guilty of three misdemeanor counts of battery, and received 364 days in the Hillsborough County Jail for each count, to be served consecutively.

Ray, 24, was found guilty of one misdemeanor count of battery, but he left the courtroom Wednesday when the jury was deliberating and never returned, so a warrant has been issued for his arrest. He was sentenced to 364 days in the Hillsborough County Jail.

"We're elated that there's accountability, but the way the law is written is wrong," Cathy Lewis said Friday night. "Those two are really just getting a slap on the wrist."

Lakeland Ledger report . . . .


Anonymous said...

I was on the jury. Those bastards deseerved alot more than what they got for killing that kid. We weren't even told Mr. Lewis was deceased until the last day of testimony, and were never told that he died as a result of the injuries sustained from the "beat down" that Racine and Ray dispensed. If we could have convicted them of murder, we would have. Thier slime ball lawyers should be glad that being a slime ball lawyer isn't a crime too... and Im not afraid to say who I am.
Jason Reynolds

Aikäne said...

Jason, thanks for your comments. It means a lot to know your thoughts as a member of the jury, and I share your feelings completely.

Anonymous said...

Forget the fact the kid was drinking illegally underage and that they found other illegal drugs in his system. So the question is, if you are driving without your seatbelt and get into an auto accident and die as a result, the person who hit you, or you hit, should be charged with the maximum charges and penalties the judiciary system can dish out. It's unfortunate that Mr. Lewis died, for sure, but it's a mockery to state he was a attending an honest birthday party with cake and ice cream. We lie in the beds we make. If I were to jump into a lion's den and provoke a fight while on drugs that inhibit my bodies natural ability to fight off injury, I'd probably be killed. So what, let's go kill some lions? Accountability is the topic, but no one is talking about the accountability of Mr. Lewis' actions.

Aikäne said...

If you're driving drunk and "accidentally" kill another person who isn't wearing his seatbelt, you don't think you should be held accountable - even if you backed the car over him a couple of times - then sped away? And the reason would be, you noticed he wasn't wearing a seatbelt, so he was breaking the law and therefore responsible for his own death?

In this case, the two men fled the scene, and in their own voices, accidentally recorded, assumed they had beaten the boy to death - yet you hold them blameless because "the kid was drinking illegally underage..."?

Those two men didn't have to set out that night to kill someone - but they did. Don't you think they deserved more than a misdemeanor charge and a slap on the wrist?

By your warped standards, any underage guy who drinks a beer would be responsible for his own death if a couple of bullies "accidentally" beat him to death. And every underage young lady who has one too many could be raped without criminal liability simply because she was drinking, rather than eating cake and ice cream, perhaps. And, whatever the age, if you're in a bar having a drink, you're fair game, right? After all, you're "in the lion's den" so if someone there is drunk and decides you're a little guy so he can beat the **** out of you - even "accidentally beat you to death - well, too bad. You get what you deserve.

I take it, anonymous, you're a defense attorney or a family member of one of the perpetrators.

Anonymous said...

Those boys DID NOT set out that night to kill someone as you stated. Any more than Mr Lewis set out to die ? They were ALL there to party !! and I dont mean the traditional birthday party that all the news stories were portraying it to be. Anyone who has read a newspaper or watched tv knows what goes on at those college parties. Things get out of hand. I have read that Mr. Lewis had MANY friends there that night. WHY DID!NT ANY OF HIS FRIENDS TRY TO HELP HIM?

Aikäne said...

Quote: Those two men didn't have to set out that night to kill someone - but they did.

That's exactly what I said, and you're smart enough to read it in context. No one, so far as I know, ever accused the two men of intentionally starting out that night looking for someone to kill. I never suggested that. But someone did die a real death as a direct result of their totally unnecessary and brutal actions. I never called it murder, but it certainly deserves something more than a misdemeanor charge and a slap on the wrist. If you know as much about the case as you pretend, you are fully aware of that.

Did you even click on the newspaper links and read the reports? If so, you know that Matt was 5'7", 133 pounds, and was brutally beaten by two older, much bigger men - like a rag doll attacked by two pitt bulls.

Witnesses told authorities that Lewis was acting as a mediator trying to prevent a fight, but was attacked in the process.

Partygoer Jody Bennett told investigators that she recalled seeing Lewis on the floor, fighting for his life.

An autopsy report concluded that Lewis' death was a "homicide" and listed the manner of death as "beaten by other(s)."

"Matthew Lewis died as a result of blunt impact to the head and torso," wrote Sam P. Gulino, associate medical examiner for Hillsborough County, in the Feb. 27, 2003 report.

"Accidentally" beating someone to death is an impossibility, in my opinion. So, after beating and kicking the boy while he was on the floor (then he decided to die, but apparently through no fault of the men you're defending) the men fled the scene and accidentally also recorded their own comments:
Esparza can be heard saying, "I thought we killed the kid because we were beating the (expletive) out of him." Etc.....

But I suppose if the "accidental" beating didn't count, then the "accidental" admission on video tape shouldn't count, either, by your logic.

In my opinion (and this is my blog, so I'm still free to express it here), there was absolutely no justification for the men's behavior, from beginning to end, that night. And there was no justice in the minimum charges brought against them with the excuse that no one knew or would say which of the men threw the fatal blow - or kick. Whether Matt's heart was bruised by the beating should not have been an issue. People die from a multitude of different reasons when they're beaten and kicked to death. But that's the prosecutor's call and he has to live with it.

So far as I can see, you have no point to make, other than struggling to somehow to defend two adult men who beat to death a boy who naively tried to be a peacemaker. My guess is that 99% of unbiased people would disagree with your sense of justice (read the juror's comment above).

It appears you are trying to convince yourself and I wonder why, but that's your business. I have no use for anything else you have to say. Defend them all you want, but do it on your own space. Get a blog, put your name on it, and share your ideas with the world. This is my blog, and Matt's family are my friends, so move on. I don't need to be reminded of this miscarriage of justice, especially from someone who doesn't bother with the facts.

Anonymous said...

Since you seem to be very concerned with the facts, I would like to point out a few fallacies in your blog:
1)"The men fled the scene and accidentally recorded their own comments." You refer to these comments multiple times yet the only quote you have is from a third party named Esparza, not Racine nor Ray.
2)You ask "Did you even click on the newspaper links and read the reports? If so, you know that Matt was 5'7", 133 pounds, and was brutally beaten by two older, much bigger men" But if you yourself did any research you would know that while Racine did weigh more than 133 pounds, he himself is only 5'7". Also, Ray and Racine are now 24 and 25 but when this took place they were only 19 and 20. I hardly think that two years counts as "older men." You also refer to Racine and Ray as two "adult men" while in the same sentence calling Lewis "a boy" they were all over 18 which means they were all adults.
3)When you lay out the facts and say "you decide" you give a brief background of Lewis "wrestling team captain" "Bartow High graduate" but you neglect to say anything about the suspects. Both graduated from Florida high schools, Racine was also on the wrestling team, etc.
4)You refer to their sentence as a "slap on the wrist." Each of them has a 364 day sentence in jail for each count they were charged on. 1092 days in jail is hardly a slap on the wrist.
I think since this is your blog maybe you could research the facts a little bit more and stick to them. I understand that you have connections to the family and feel very strongly about this case but present the facts as facts and your opinions as your opinions.
5)I know that you are not the juror who posted, however, this point is very necessary. I quote "If we could have convicted them of murder, we would have. Thier slime ball lawyers should be glad that being a slime ball lawyer isn't a crime too" It is not the job of the lawyers to charge people with crimes. If you have a problem with what the men were charged with bring it up to the proper authorities. Also "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to have the assistance of counsel for his defense" Amendment VI, United States Constitution

On another note, not related to the case, I do not understand why you insisted on putting a demeaning reference to pitbulls in your blog. It is everyday references such as your "like a ragdoll attacked by two pit bulls" that aids in the bad reputation this breed of dog. Breeds of dogs are like the different races of humans and there is no need to spread prejudice.

Before questions arise as to who I am and where my loyalties fall, I am a first year law student who was assigned this case as a research project. I do not know people on either side, I came across this blog and felt compelled to express my opinions.

Anonymous said...

Well what a small world it is indeed. I got an email today from a Tampa Tribune reporter who is writing an article on how the internet is affecting jury selection and the court system in general. It seems that Either Racine, Ray or one of thier lovely lawyers read my comment and filed a motion for a new trial saying that the jury was tainted. Nice try kids, but the judge didn't buy it. If you notice I said that I found out these things AFTER the trial. Racine and Ray got what they deserved. They (Racine and Ray) can try to mimimize thier actions all they want, but the truth is that Lewis is dead as a result of Racine and Ray's actions. If they hadnt been there, Lewis would be alive. PERIOD!

Aikäne said...

Jason, thanks for your followup comment in May. I was not aware of the "internet defense" used on appeal, but I had a clue something was up...

In watching the web addresses for repeat visitors to this page, I became suspicious of motives. Although most of them made no comment, the repeated visits by a few made me suspect a hidden motive, one reason I never responded to "anonymous, 3-06-2007."

That person claimed to be an impartial researcher, yet ignored key details of the case and chose instead to attack both you (a juror) and me (a friend of the family who referenced my facts with online newspaper reports). If in fact the "guest" was a "first year law student" working on a "research project," I hope the professor knew enough about the case to award a failing grade for the student's bias and for a gross lack of intellectual honesty and legal analysis.

Perhaps "anonymous's" comments were designed to elicit additional observations from you or to prod someone else to write something the lawyers thought they could distort into a defense. They must have been desperate for anything to blow smoke in the judge's eyes, but using your comments were an insult to the judge's intelligence - and obviously did not work.

Thank you for providing your perspective and for making me aware of the hidden agenda of at least one of the site's visitors.

Matt Lewis's parents will always suffer. "Anonymous" can hurl a few insults, then carry on with his (or her) life without a second thought (except maybe flunking out in court occasionally).