OAKLAND -- A Superior Court judge denied efforts to immediately halt the formal unveiling of a Jonestown memorial at Evergreen Cemetery that contains the name of the Rev. Jim Jones.
But he set a preliminary injunction hearing for May 25, four days before the unveiling ceremony is scheduled, leaving open the possibility that opponents could still ask for the memorial to be permanently removed.
Jynona Norwood of the Guyana Tribute Foundation requested a temporary restraining order because the memorial bears the name of Jones, the Peoples Temple founder accused of being responsible for the deaths of 918 people, including 305 children, in November 1978 at Jonestown, Guyana. Among the victims of the mass suicide were 27 members of Norwood's family and she collected $30,000 for an alternative memorial without Jones' name that was never completed.
The judge, Robert McGuiness, wrote in his ruling released late Thursday afternoon that "the court is mindful of the subject matter involved; its effect on the lives and families involved; its place in local and national history and its sensitive nature."
But, he denied the restraining order request based on a review of the evidence presented during 40 minutes of attorney arguments Thursday about whether the cemetery had a legitimate contract for the monument already in place, or if it had broken terms of an agreement Norwood thought she had. McGuiness wrote that he also based his decision on the "virtually completed nature of the memorial."
Steve Gurnee, a Roseville attorney representing Evergreen, argued Norwood never submitted any plans or got the cemetery's required approval for a monument. "She just went off on her own," he said.
Gurnee said Norwood was "clearly aware" in December 2009 that there had been no design approval or plans submitted for her group's memorial.
Vernon Goins, Norwood's attorney, said Norwood relied on "oral and written" confirmation, including a conversation with Evergreen Director Ronald Haulman in March 2007, that her group's plans were acceptable and that its memorial would be built.
Outside court, Goins said the ultimate goal of Norwood and her group is to have the existing memorial torn down and replaced with theirs.
"The project is done," said Jim Jones Jr., adopted son of the Jonestown founder, after the ruling was published, adding that it was the first step in ending the controversy behind the memorial.
"I'm not here to blame my father," he said. "History has painted him pretty accurately."
But the memorial, he said, is intended to give people a place to go to remember their loved ones who died Nov. 18, 1978.
Neither Goins nor Norwood could be reached for comment about the judge's ruling. U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, who was shot shortly before the Jonestown deaths while investigating reports of abuse there, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
But a former Peoples Temple member, Laura Johnston Kohl, said the memorial should be inclusive. She left the Jonestown camp two weeks before Nov. 18 to get supplies in a neighboring town and was spared the fate of her friends.
In 1998, she contributed $100 to Norwood's memorial fund and now supports the new one.
"Jynona can't decide for everyone else. She's not the only one who suffered," Johnston Kohl said.
"Whatever anybody needs to feel peace is what I'm for. We were all victims."