OGDEN — Besides attorneys, Matthew David Stewart now has a website to help him with his murder trial.
Stewart faces the prospect of the death penalty if convicted of killing Ogden Police Officer Jared Francom during a shootout on Jan. 4. He is also charged with seven counts of aggravated attempted homicide for shooting at seven other officers and injuring five, and one count of drug manufacturing, in 2nd District Court.
His family launched helpmatthewstewart.org earlier this month to raise funds for Stewart’s legal defense. They want to be able to afford whatever expert witnesses, scientists, medical professionals and the like that he might need.
"Defending oneself in the court of law is a costly endeavor. While the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants the right to legal counsel, finding the truth in a complex case such as this takes much more," according to the website.
A post on Stewart’s Facebook community page, from a week ago, indicates that the family is hoping to raise more than $70,000.
In a motion filed Feb. 6, defense attorney Randy Richards asked that 2nd District Judge Noel Hyde appoint Kris Cantil as a private investigator for Stewart.
Stewart does not have the funds to pay an investigator and should qualify for an appropriation paid out of Weber County’s funds, according to the motion.
The Standard-Examiner previously reported that Cantil, of Bountiful, charges $75 an hour, according to her resume, and was part of the defense team that won the acquittal of Salt Lake Olympic officials Tom Welch and Dave Johnson on bribery charges in 2003.
On the site’s homepage, his family posted a blog entry about the shootout and linked to news stories about Stewart and his court proceedings.
A few small advertisements occupy a right bottom column of the site, though a message above them says that all ad revenue goes to Stewart’s defense as well.
The site also features a biographical page about Stewart that sheds light on his youth and career. The page paints a picture of his life before the shooting, talking about his love of music and physical fitness and sharing photos of him enjoying the outdoors.
The biography shifts in tone near the end. The second to last paragraph questions the search warrant tactics that police use.
"We feel that the manner in which these tactics are carried out leaves a lot of room for human error and accidents. People are getting hurt, traumatized, and killed," the website states.
The site is also decorated with a blue ribbon, which represents fallen police officers, and has a page dedicated to Francom’s memory.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Jared Francom. The loss of a life is always devastating," the page reads.
Stewart’s family could not be reached for comment.