Lemon lacks remorse, won’t admit the truth

The discussion of Attica Prison in the Jan. 20 News raises many provocative issues. UB professor Teresa Miller’s documentary film offers a fascinating insight: inmates and corrections officers share certain parallel experiences as they are confronted with the challenge of doing “hard time,” based on ego, rage and invalidation, or an “easy time” that draws on genuine self-regard and respect for others. Survivor victims of violent crime, although not confined within prison walls, encounter a similar choice. Stripped of their sense of safety and trust, do they commit to an angry, paranoid and dehumanizing vision or do they rebuild a life of meaning, compassion and wary trust?

My interest is professional and personal. As a psychologist I counsel many victims of violent crime who struggle with traumatic after-effects and a difficult choice about how to live. I am also the son of Sidney Fink and the nephew of Paul Fink, the murdered shopkeepers referenced in the profile of Matthew Lemon.

I compliment him on making a life of value in Attica and commend his family for their enduring devotion to him. I am saddened and appalled, however, by his claim that he was an innocent bystander of a “robbery went bad.” This has been his mendacious personal fable for 33 years. At his trial it was thoroughly refuted by an eyewitness to the robbery and in the statement of a cousin, Michael Thompson, who participated in this incident and was also convicted of murder. Lemon’s claim was rejected by the jury despite the vigorous defense offered by his highly respected private defense attorney, Joel Daniels.

Miller describes her film as “an attempt to put a human face on the entire system.” Sadly, the “human face” of Lemon that emerges is that of a man committed to his family, self-improvement and helping youth, and yet completely lacking the honesty and remorse to acknowledge a fateful personal choice that inflicted enormous loss and suffering on several families.

Robert Fink

Detroit, Mich.