OAKLAND -- A Superior Court judge denied efforts to block the formal unveiling Sunday of a Jonestown memorial at Evergreen Cemetery that contains the name of the Rev. Jim Jones.
Judge Robert McGuiness issued the decision Thursday afternoon, a day after he heard lengthy and sometimes emotional testimony by supporters of the monument, as well as opponents led by Jynona Norwood of the Guyana Tribute Foundation.
Norwood asked the court to block the monument unveiling because one of the 918 names on the monument belongs to Jones, the Peoples Temple founder who orchestrated the deaths of more than 900 people, including 305 children, in November 1978 at Jonestown, Guyana. There are 436 buried at Evergreen in an unmarked grave where the memorial now stands. Among them are 27 members of Norwood's family. She had collected $30,000 for an alternative memorial without Jones' name that was never completed.
Norwood criticized the decision, calling it a "one-sided judgment." She said she plans to demonstrate at the cemetery Sunday.
"This is by a long shot not the end of it."
Before the hearing Wednesday she said she wants her relatives' names removed from the now-standing memorial. She said it should be destroyed and that Evergreen broke the terms of an agreement she and the cemetery had to install her monument, called the Jonestown Memorial Wall.
But McGuiness wrote in his opinion that there are significant questions as to whether a contract existed between Norwood and Evergreen's owner, Buck Kamphausen. It appears instead that Norwood assumed her agreement with the Marin Monument Co. to begin construction on the wall equaled a contract with Evergreen. In any case, McGuiness wrote, Norwood was unsuccessful in raising money for the wall, which still has not been paid for or completed after more than a decade. In addition, there is no record of the cemetery's board or owner approving Norwood's final design, according to Steve Gurnee, a Roseville attorney representing Evergreen. Norwood said she needed no such approval from the cemetery because it was implicit in the contract with Marin Monument.
"I don't know why they would lie," Norwood said, turning toward Gurnee and Evergreen Executive Director Ron Haulman.
"I lost 27 people," she said. "Who did you lose?"
Her attorney Vernon Goins II argued that letting someone use "our" plot of land would cause irreparable harm to the people who receive services from the Guyana Tribune Foundation. Messages left on his answering machine were not returned.
Norwood claims her wall is being "opposed by a coalition led by Jim Jones leaders" because she wanted to exclude Jones' name.
That coalition includes the Jonestown Memorial Fund, which spearheaded the memorial to be unveiled Sunday. The group consists of John and James Cobb, whose family died in Guyana in 1978, as well as Jones' adopted son, Jim Jones Jr.
They said they grew frustrated after numerous memorial proposals failed but had not in the past opposed excluding Jim Jones name. "What I disapproved of was the time it took," John Cobb said during testimony Wednesday.
Stephan Jones, who is Jones' son, said he welcomes a memorial regardless of whether his father's name is included or not.
But Gwendolin Anthony, who lost about a dozen family members in Guyana, said "I'd rather have nothing than to have that."
McGuiness denied Norwood's request earlier in May to immediately halt the monument's completion. He said the halt would sacrifice the rights of people who want to gather at the Jonestown memorial on Sunday to honor the victims.
On Tuesday, the lawyers are expected to set a date for a settlement conference in which they will try to resolve the dispute.
"Evergreen has no position on the name," Gurnee said Thursday afternoon. "That's not the cemetery's role."