The preliminary hearing for the motorist who killed Matthew was held this past Friday, September 26th, 2014. The case is in juvenile court which has different procedures than an adult criminal proceeding. The court is now accepting Victim Impact Statements. Since Matthew isn’t able to go before the court himself, we all need to step up and show how Matthew affected your life and would have continued to make your life better had he not tragically been killed.
We’re asking everyone to email letters to Terri Zuniga, the supervisor of the Victim Witness Program for the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office (email@example.com) talking about your experiences with and about Matthew and the impact his life made on you. Terri will deliver the emails to the probation department on Matthew’s behalf. Please bcc (blind carbon copy) or cc (carbon copy) Matthew’s memorial email account if you’d like to share it with the O’Neill family (firstname.lastname@example.org). Time is of the essence; please send these letters by Wednesday, October 8th, 2014.
At this stage in the case, the Probation Department is charged with recommending formal or informal probation. Due to the magnitude of the vehicular manslaughter charge, the family and friends of Matthew feel that it is important that the defendant be given formal probation. While informal probation is akin to a “slap on the wrist” and may simply give a message that says “don’t do it again,” formal probation is a structured program requiring regular contact with a probation officer and monitored activities such as community service which could include speaking to other young people about the serious consequences of poor judgment while driving.
The O’Neill family strongly believes that Matthew’s death must have meaning beyond the loss of a beloved son, brother, fiancé, and friend. A ruling of formal probation in this case will send the message that killing a bicyclist carries a serious consequence and can serve as a deterrent to motorists who will think about the consequences of their actions before they pass a bicyclist on the road.
To help the O’Neill family, it is important that the probation department receive as many Victim Impact Statements as possible, and as soon as possible, describing the impact Matthew O’Neill had on the lives of others. Letters are needed that describe Matthew’s continued quest for knowledge, love of lifelong learning, advocacy for those who could not advocate for themselves, passion for cycling, and, above all,Matthew’s commitment to live life in the service of others.