The Jury Talks Back

12/21/2008

Whose Justice?

Filed under: Uncategorized — JRM @ 1:23 pm

This is the final (for a while, anyway) in a series of posts on how the criminal law system ought to work.

Here’s our situation:

Meg, Beth, and Amy are all 22-year-old seniors in college; all live off campus, and all are five miles away from the Drunken Collegian bar, Meg to the East, Beth to the West, and Amy to the South. Each drives to the bar to meet and drink. None has any criminal record or traffic tickets.

Each enjoys cheery conversation and frilly rum drinks until closing time, when each take their respective cars to try to drive home. All have reached a blood alcohol level of 0.22%, which is techincally referred to as “blitzed.”

Meg drives home on the relatively vacant street toward her house. About a mile down, she sees a car stopped at a stop sign too late, and veers hard right to avoid it; she has no idea where she’s heading before she slams the wheel right. She ends up (appropriately) with her car through a the store window of Ubiquitous Liquors. The police come and arrest her.

Beth and Amy both drive separately to their respective homes on their respectively relatively vacant streets. Each sees a car stopped at a stop sign too late; each veers hard right onto the sidewalk, and each strikes and kills a 25-year-old woman before stopping just short of an entry to a Ubiquitious Liquors.

Beth’s victim is a married homeless advocate with two children, whose family wants nothing bad to happen to Beth. “One life has been destroyed, and we are confident that Beth can live an upright, upstanding life and has learned her lesson. Further harm to society is unnecessary, and we do not want her to serve any time. We believe 120 hours of community service would be the right thing.”

Amy’s victim is a single insurance adjuster. Amy’s victim’s parents want Amy prosecuted for murder (a highly unrealistic outcome.) Amy’s victim’s family want Amy incarcerated for as long as possible; they want her in for as long as their daughter is dead. “My daughter deserves to be alive. This woman had no mercy when she got in the car, and she deserves nothing but eons of prison.”

Questions:

1. Assume that the fact that a person was or wasn’t there in these scenarios is entirely luck. Should the friends be treated differently due to the different result? Why, or why not?

2. Should Amy and Beth be treated identically? Why, or why not?

If you’d like to discuss specific sentences, each faces a hefty fine. Meg’s exposure is two days to 120 days actual time, though she will likely be eligible for an alternate work program or other non-jail jail. Beth and Amy face up to five years actual time in prison. As with the others, feel free to ignore the actual California law to discuss whatever sentence you think is just.

Thanks for participating everyone! If there are any other criminal law subjects you’d like hit, let me know in the comments.

–JRM

45 Comments

  1. Amy & Beth should both be prosecuted for the same offense for the loss of life, and probably receive like sentences. They operated a motor vehicle when they both should have known they were too blitzed to do so safely. If they had been sober, they would be charged, as I understand the law, with vehicular-manslaughter, and they might have escaped with just jail time plus AA). However, the addition of DUI racks this up to what – reckless disregard, murder-2? That’s got to be worth 3-5, plus mandatory AA, etc.
    Meg just had a DUI accident – lucky her!
    One thing she needs to do is to sit in the courtroom where her friends are undergoing trial, and listen to why she is one lucky girl.
    Loss of license, mandatory AA, some jail time too (perhaps a couple of week-ends?).
    All three show a pattern of disregard for the law when in comes to driving after drinking and their sentencing should reflect that.

    Comment by Another Drew — 12/21/2008 @ 2:01 pm

  2. #1 – Meg should definitely be treated differently than Beth and Amy. She did not kill anyone. True, it was pure luck, but luck plays a part in real life.

    All three should get the same sentence for DWI (or whatever the legal term is). This penalty reflects the fact that these women endangered the public by their actions.

    Beth and Amy also the penalty for vehicular homocide (or whatever the legal term is) added on. Not only did they endanger the public, they actually harmed an innocent victim. Bad luck contributed to it, but it was still mainly a result of their illegal actions (drunk driving).

    #2 – IMO Beth and Amy should get the exact same sentence. They both killed an innocent under the exact same circumstances. The difference in their victims’ job/family/social life should not be a factor.

    Although I don’t really have all that big an objection if the pleas of the victims family allows Beth to get a lighter sentence on that charge (it should not affect Beth’s DWI penalty). The victim is the person wronged (and the surviving family speaks for them if they are dead). If that victim chooses to ask for clemency, their word should carry weight.

    I am less willing to allow a family’s pleas to extend a sentence. Yes, the family represents the wronged victim, but there is a reason the public decides what appropriate punishment is for a crime when they make a law. This is because most people aren’t willing or able to decide dispassionately when it involves family.

    Yeah, there’s a bit of a mismatch between my views here, but that’s how I feel about the matter. If I had to get rid of the mismatch, I’d do away with the pleas for lesser sentences rather than allow pleas for greater sentences.

    Comment by Dan D — 12/21/2008 @ 2:21 pm

  3. 1. Meg didn’t kill anyone, so she cannot be charged with manslaughter. It’s kind of like the difference between murder and attempted murder in that the result matters.

    2. Amy and Beth should be charged the same. They committed the same crime.

    Comment by aunursa — 12/21/2008 @ 3:02 pm

  4. Amy and Beth should be treated identically. They both killed someone under identical circumstances; the difference in the nature of their victims and in the desires of their victims’ families shouldn’t matter.

    Yes, the difference between Meg and Beth/Amy is luck, but Meg didn’t kill anyone; and while she definitely ran the *risk* of killing someone, the fact that she didn’t means she has a lower culpability than the other two, even if just from luck.

    As an aside, why wouldn’t a second degree murder prosecution work? I think we can infer malice from driving under those conditions; driving with a .22% BAC is an act which is inherently dangerous to human life in the abstract, and they all made a deliberate choice to do it. Is the problem that the intoxication undercuts malice?

    Comment by aphrael — 12/21/2008 @ 3:23 pm

  5. All three were drunk, all three are old enough to know that they were drunk, and all three decided to drive anyway.

    Meg: DUI, plus restitution for damages. Jail time and/or supervised probation.

    Beth & Amy: Voluntary manslaughter should be the minimum charge, with sentence of three to five years. The attitudes of the victim’s families should not affect the basic sentence, but may be considered when determining how much of the sentence must be served in confinement before consideration for parole. I don’t know if “depraved indifference” or “culpable negligence” applies; if so, this may add a year or two to the sentence and/or affect the possibility of parole.

    All three lose their licenses and must attend AA or equivalent before getting them back.

    (Full disclosure: the poster is a former practicing alcoholic)

    Comment by cvproj — 12/21/2008 @ 3:47 pm

  6. All three should be prosecuted for driving under the influence. Since Meg did not kill anyone and assuming no previous DUI convictions, she should pay a fine and lose her driver’s license. Beth/Amy should receive a fine, loss of license, and six months in jail as they caused a death.

    Meg’s actions did not result in anyone’s death or injury so she should not face further prosecution. Beth/Amy should be prosecuted for negligent homicide. Their BA content indicates they should not have been operating a motor vehicle. The difference in the socio-economic status of their victims is irrelevant. They should receive the same sentence–five years imprisonment with the possibility of parole.

    Comment by Stu707 — 12/21/2008 @ 3:54 pm

  7. Meg is beyond lucky (although she’s won a civil lawsuit from Ubiquitous Liqueur for property damage.) DUI. I’ll pray she comes to her senses.

    Amy and Beth: as unlucky as Meg was lucky. DUI, civil suit, vehicular homicide charge. Beth may get a lighter sentence, perhaps a distinguishing mark of their luck.

    (Full disclosure: former ambulance driver, former heavy drinker. A second conviction of DUI should result in having to serve whatever remains of the maximum possible for the first conviction, before starting serving the second.)

    Comment by htom — 12/21/2008 @ 4:00 pm

  8. Meg gets whatever the punishment is for an accident while drunk. She should also consider herself blessed.

    Amy and Beth: they should be charged with the same crime, and while they SHOULD get the same senetce, the “victim impact” statements may affect the outcome. Beth will likely get a lighter sentence, maybe even not have to serve time. Amy is just hosed.

    Comment by Scott Jacobs — 12/21/2008 @ 4:09 pm

  9. I agree with Scott. Amy and Beth should be treated the same but they probably won’t be. That’s life. Defendants convicted of high-risk crimes typically don’t choose their victims, but part of the risk is that they will end up with an especially unsympathetic victim’s family and/or jury.

    Comment by DRJ — 12/21/2008 @ 4:18 pm

  10. They all get the maximum for their respective offenses.

    Meg did everything a drunk driver could do short of killing someone. It was not a case of being stopped at a roadblock and failing the breathalyzer. Maximum jail, maximum fine, automobile forfeiture, license revocation for a minimum of three years with reinstatement at the discretion of the DMV.

    Amy and Beth, aggravated vehicular homicide, five years. It was not their bad luck, it was their victims’ bad luck. We will listen politely to both families, but we don’t run the courts and prisons as instruments of private vengeance. They exist for the protection of all society. It is too bad that they are not liable for voluntary manslaughter, fifteen years, but that’s because too many legislators and their family members drive drunk.

    Comment by nk — 12/21/2008 @ 5:26 pm

  11. It is too bad that they are not liable for voluntary manslaughter, fifteen years, but that’s because too many legislators and their family members drive drunk.

    That’s changing, BTW, with increased sentences, mandatory minimums, and mandatory consecutive sentences for multiple victims.

    Comment by nk — 12/21/2008 @ 5:39 pm

  12. I agree with nk in #10, and I like htom’s idea of rollover minutes from the first offense being added to a second. Given that California could not seem to bring itself to enforce three strikes even on violent felons, I don’t see it happening.

    Comment by Machinist — 12/21/2008 @ 5:47 pm

  13. For Meg, I would impose the maximum post-prison testing and probation. Whatever the customary sentencing for an (assumed) first DUI offense is fine by me, including suspended sentence – so long as the probationary period is lengthy and the terms severe (like nightly remote breathalyzer and random urine drug tests). All at her expense. Full restitution, as well.

    The girls who killed would get the minimum period of incarceration allowed. Again, I am assuming clean records. If they serve a minimum of three years, the probation would extend another three, with random testing for drugs and alcohol. Plus full restitution for any property damage.

    I would not distinguish between the two for sentencing. It is not about the victim’s compassion, it is about society’s need to keep fools like this from doing this again.

    Comment by Ed — 12/21/2008 @ 7:26 pm

  14. The two girls who killed someone deserve to be punished much more severely than the one who simply did property damage. Two clear felonies, likely vehicular manslaughter, and one case of drunk driving as a misdemeanor.

    The two deaths cases should be handled identically. It is society doing the prosecution, not the actual victim. The court should be no more swayed by the angry family than by the forgiving family. Don’t know what one gets for manslaughter in CA, but I’d aim for about 5 years.

    The other case SHOULD get a lesser sentence because there should be some benefit towards taking an action that did not kill someone. Maybe in this case it was sheer luck, but no court can judge that and one should highly favor a result that does not end in humans getting hurt.

    So for the lucky one, 3 years suspended after 90 days in jail. Oh, and no booze for those 3 years, with daily breathalyzer tests. Plus all the fines, license suspensions, AA meetings and the like.

    Comment by Kevin Murphy — 12/21/2008 @ 7:51 pm

  15. I’m keeping the “ought to work” part in mind.

    Each committed 2 crimes. Drunk driving and the accident at the end. All 3 should get the same penalty for drunk driving. On top of that, the one who crashed into the liquor store should get penalized for that and the two who killed the pedestrians should get a much more severe penalty.

    I can see the point that each committed basically the same act. Meh. But the result wasn’t the same. If you want to penalize every criminal act on the assumption that the worst possible outcome could have happened then every bar fight would be a capital case.

    In this case I’m not heavily influenced by the views of the victim’s families.

    Comment by Arthur — 12/21/2008 @ 11:30 pm

  16. The Law is reactionary in the US (necessary for the provision of Freedom and Liberty), and since Meg did not cause a fatality to occur, her sentence cannot be equal to one which involves the loss of life.

    Beth and Amy did cause loss of life. They choose to squeeze the trigger (by drinking and driving), and as a result, killed their respective victims.

    The personal lives of the victims and the views of the surviving family members ought to have no role in an ideal legal code (in a Free society), but such perfection is not within the grasp of a human institution confined by language. Language is imprecise and therefore cannot capture the ideals of Justice with universal approval.

    Should not society have a mechanism to address these deficiencies of the Law and allow (perhaps in a limited way) the family members of the victims to salve their grief in a manner that approximates their wishes?

    Rather than insist upon a punishment that is patterned after a strict application universal standards for the sake of fairness toward all perpetrators (which is ultimately a function of language), perhaps a slightly tailored punishment (albeit not to exceed to far from the standard) ought to be allowed for the sake of the surviving families of the victims.

    In this case, the wishes of the two families should be taken into account. Beth should get a lighter sentence — 3 years with 240 hours of community service upon leaving the prison. Amy should receive the maximum punishment of 5 years.

    Society gets what it requires (for abusing Freedom and Liberty and causing loss of life) and perhaps the family members get a measure of what they want in order to repair as much of their lives as they can.

    True, this may not be entirely fair to Beth and Amy, but the grief of the family members should have a higher priority than absolute fairness to the perpetrators.

    (if I were king ) 😉

    Comment by Pons Asinorum — 12/22/2008 @ 12:15 am

  17. Well, since you asked, a variation on a real life one . . .

    It was a little before 8 at night when the breaker went out at Emily Milburn’s home in Galveston. She was busy preparing her children for school the next day, so she asked her 12-year-old daughter, Dymond, to pop outside and turn the switch back on.

    As Dymond headed toward the breaker, a blue van drove up and three men jumped out rushing toward her. One of them grabbed her saying, “You’re a prostitute. You’re coming with me.”

    Dymond grabbed onto a tree and started screaming, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.” One of the men covered her mouth. Two of the men beat her about the face and throat.

    So much for real life . . . in the hypothetical, Dymond’s father, hearing her cries, comes out of the house, gun in hand, and sees three men beating his daughter and trying to force her into an unmarked van.

    He shouts at them to stop, and they shout something back; he’s not able to make out what they’re saying, as the sound of his pounding heart and his own shouts — “Get your fucking hands off my kid!” — is drowning out their shouts.

    Not the only thing that makes noise — one of them pulls a gun, and he quickly drops him with a shot to the head. The other two release the girl and go for their own guns; he kills them, as well.

    As it turns out, of course, they’re plainclothes cops, who have a warrant with an address two blocks away; they were at the wrong house to arrest a white prostitute, and grabbed a 12-year-old black girl by mistake. It’s one of those “isolated incidents.”

    A recorder is running in the van; it clearly records that they were shouting, “Police! Drop your weapon.”

    He’s charged with murder of a police officer. Times three.

    Conviction? Sentence?

    Comment by Joel Rosenberg — 12/22/2008 @ 4:35 am

  18. I believe in balancing. All 3 should have a drunk drive into their homes, only the 2 who hit people should also be hit by the drunk.

    Comment by PCD — 12/22/2008 @ 5:39 am

  19. Conviction? Sentence?

    He can easily claim he did not hear them, and it will be up to the prosecution to convince a jury that a father hearing cries of panic from his 12-year-old did something wrong.

    If there was ever a case to worry about jury nullification, this would be it.

    For the record, while it’s a shame the cops died, I applaud the father’s ability to control his fire, striking his targets who were so close to his daughter.

    Comment by Scott Jacobs — 12/22/2008 @ 6:25 am

  20. Dymond’s dad gets three months off work, with pay, and a Good Conduct Medal (with Valor citation) from the city.

    Comment by htom — 12/22/2008 @ 6:45 am

  21. Dymond’s dad gets three months off work, with pay, and a Good Conduct Medal (with Valor citation) from the city.

    And a large payment from the city, along with an apology from the chief of police about why he’s sorry his cops are to damn stupid to read an address right.

    Comment by Scott Jacobs — 12/22/2008 @ 7:02 am

  22. #19 – Dymond’s father should face no charges. The police were in the wrong. Under the circumstances stated, the police were kidnapping Dymond (although I don’t expect the police or courts to admit it).

    We give the police a large amount of power, but that power (in theory) has strict legal limits. These cops had the legal authority to arrest a specific person. Grabbing a random person from their home, blocks from the address in the warrent, is well beyond that authority.

    I’m also wondering what caused the police to make such an aggresive arrest. Prostitution is not usually a violent crime justifying such tactics. The fact that plainclothed police were used for this aggressive arrest is just asking for trouble.

    I have some sympathy for the dangerous aspect of police work, but the right of people to defend themselves and their children doesn’t vanish just because someone yelled “Police”. Unfortunately the law seems to forget this all too often, even when it is clear the police screwed up.

    Police in far too many cases choose sloppy and over-aggressive tactics and blame any bad results on the victims. In cases like this, the police should be required to prove that their tactics and actions were well within proper police procedure.

    (Oh, and on rereading the story, that last paragraph of the quoted part sounds rather damning for the police. I can’t imagine that being anywhere close to ‘proper procedure’.)

    Comment by Dan D — 12/22/2008 @ 9:00 am

  23. To be fair, the story is derived almost entirely from the victim’s account of her kidnapping and beating by the upholders of law and justice; understandably, the perps have lawyered up.

    You’ll be relieved to know, I’m sure, that the cops’ lawyer has issued a statement that “the city has investigated the matter and found that the conduct of the police officers was appropriate under the circumstances.”

    So no improper harm was done; when dyslexic cops drive to the wrong address and grab the wrong kid not knowing or caring that she’s of a different color than the one they’re supposedly supposed to apprehend, whatever force they used was appropriate, under the circumstances.

    After all, their lawyer says so.

    Comment by Joel Rosenberg — 12/22/2008 @ 9:17 am

  24. So no improper harm was done; when dyslexic cops drive to the wrong address and grab the wrong kid not knowing or caring that she’s of a different color than the one they’re supposedly supposed to apprehend, whatever force they used was appropriate, under the circumstances.

    After all, their lawyer says so.

    I really expect the jury to disagree.

    Did this even make it past a grand jury to a True Bill?

    Comment by Scott Jacobs — 12/22/2008 @ 9:31 am

  25. Joel, can you link me to some place I can keep current on this case? This will interest me greatly…

    Comment by Scott Jacobs — 12/22/2008 @ 9:32 am

  26. This seems to be the Galveston/Houston, Texas story that’s the start of the hypothetical. Note that father and daughter have already been charged and brought to trial — for assaulting the officers — where the judge dismissed it, several years ago, but it’s supposedly coming back now that they’ve filed a civil suit. Civil suit filing?

    Comment by htom — 12/22/2008 @ 9:54 am

  27. Dymond grabbed onto a tree and started screaming, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.” One of the men covered her mouth. Two of the men beat her about the face and throat.

    If I believe her, “Not Guilty” of anything. No reasonable father would behave otherwise.

    Comment by nk — 12/22/2008 @ 10:17 am

  28. Conviction? Sentence?

    Well, he was on his property, I assume. And he encountered three men engaged in the act of illegally detaining (and then beating) his daughter. He killed these criminals in order to prevent this act.

    Give him a medal and a shiny new car.

    The fact that they were or were not yelling “Police, stop!” doesn’t matter. They were acting illegally under color of law.

    Comment by jdub — 12/22/2008 @ 10:39 am

  29. For the record, while it’s a shame the cops died,.

    I disagree. We’re better off without those particular “police.” Like I wrote above, give the shooter

    One (1) Shiny Gold Medal

    One (1) Shiny New Car

    Comment by jdub — 12/22/2008 @ 10:42 am

  30. Scott, the best coverage of this — and of “isolated incidents” in general, at least outside of Minneapolis (I’ve arguably got that particular beat in the blogosphere, although if somebody wants to disagree, that’s fine) — is at Balko’s website; http://theagitator.com . (I know that he and Patterico are unfond of each other; I don’t much care.)

    To be fair, we’ve only heard the victims’ side in this, not the defendants: Gilbert Gomez, David Roark, Justin Popovich, and Sean Stewart. And to give them credit, they didn’t shoot the family’s puppy, but just threatened to.

    Comment by Joel Rosenberg — 12/22/2008 @ 10:47 am

  31. By the way, my own take is that, in my hypothetical, it’s a great thing that the badged perps died, pour encouragez les autres to at least try to read an address and learn how to distinguish between a young black girl and a white hooker.

    Were it other than a hypothetical, I’d feel otherwise; I think it would be — to use the term technically — tragic.

    Comment by Joel Rosenberg — 12/22/2008 @ 10:51 am

  32. “Every death is a trajedy, a million deaths but a statistic”

    Comment by Another Drew — 12/22/2008 @ 10:57 am

  33. Joel: he should be acquitted. He used deadly force in self-defense while trying to prevent a crime (the abduction of his child). That they happened to be plainsclothes police should be of no matter.

    Comment by aphrael — 12/22/2008 @ 11:46 am

  34. Thanks, JRM, for another very interesting exercise.

    As per your instructions in the original exercise, I am writing my comment without having seen any of the other comments. Also, my response is based on my opinion of what the law should be in the particular hypothetical, not on what the law may actually be.

    First, the situation:

    Three 22-year old college seniors, Meg, Beth and Amy, drive separately to a bar, all leave drunk (whether or not the barkeep could tell any of them were drunk is not stated), and each gets into an accident on the way home. Meg causes only damage to the property of Victim 1 (including disruption of the Victim 1’s business), Beth accidentally kills Victim 2 and Amy accidentally kills Victim 3. As indicated, Victim 2 is the owner of a chain of store front businesses. Victim 3 is as married mother with a politically correct job helping the downtrodden. Victim 2’s family believes no societal good would come from punishing Beth and wants punishment of Beth to be nothing more than 120 hours of community service. Victim 3 is unmarried and some people would not like her employer because it is an insurance company. Victim 3’s family wants Amy punished as if she had committed premeditated murder. We are not told what Victim 1 wants. We are also not told if this behavior or Meg, Beth and Amy (i.e., getting drunk) is unusual or not for them, although none of them has a criminal or traffic record.

    Second, some life experience comments:

    We all have seen people making mistakes while driving there cars. Some of those people were even violating the law when doing so (e.g., extreme speeding on surface streets and not stopping for a red light or a stop sign). Many of us, because of our alertness and expert driving skill, have avoided serious collisions which would have been caused by law-breaking drivers. If those drivers were caught, the worst they would get is a fine, thanks to our expert driving’s preventing an accident and resulting injury. Essentially, no harm-no foul.

    As a society, we generally punish less harshly criminal attempts that fail. (There are exceptions, but generally my statement is correct.) I guess the reason we punish unsuccessful attempts is that we believe that the criminal may not really have intended to succeed. Of course, many failures are due to mere luck, the intervention of good citizens, or the plain incompetence of the criminal. In any event, we generally do not punish convicted unsuccessful criminals as much as we punish convicted successful criminals. (“Successful” meaning that the intended crime was actually committed. Obviously, a truly “successful” crime is one in which the criminal commits the crime and escapes liability.)

    As a society (referring to the USA because some countries are different) we punish criminals for several reasons, including among others (and in no particular order),

    – vengeance of the public and the individual victims against the criminal;

    – to provide an opportunity for rehabilitation of the criminal;

    – to deter others from committing the same crime; and

    – the cost (in property damage, emotional damage, and injury and death of humans) of the crimes prevented by keeping a particular criminal imprisoned exceed the costs of imprisoning that criminal.

    Third, my analysis:

    Meg, Beth and Amy all actually committed the same crime. That is, while intending to drive a vehicle, they failed to stop drinking before they had imbibed enough to become impaired. Each had successfully completed the crime when she started her car and she continued committing the crime until her car stopped moving.

    The fact that driving while intoxicated is a crime is well known. As a society we make it well-known that that is a crime and also that the immediate consequences of that crime can and often do include severe injury and even death to innocent humans as well as to the participants in the crime. Meg, Beth and Amy must be considered to have that knowledge.

    However, we all also know of people who have driven unlawfully (whether by driving through lights or by driving under the influence of alcohol), and in the vast majority of cases they get to their destinations without even a traffic citation. And, we all know that in the overwhelming majority of unlawful driving situations, there is no evil intent (although there may be varying levels of intentional disregard for the safety of others). In other words, we all know that injury is likely to happen only a minority of the time.

    OK. All the foregoing was easy.

    In my opinion people driving under the influence is a BIG problem. However, as big a problem as it is, I think society is better off in situations like this if it is willing to give first time offenders a break provided that there is no evidence of prior incidents. For sentencing purposes I would consider evidence less probative that beyond a reasonable doubt than for the specific crime charged. So, if the evidence showed that a particular defendant got “blitzed” every Friday night and drove home in that condition, I would sentence harshly.

    Here there is no evidence to indicate that any of Meg, Beth and Amy is anything other than a first time offender.

    Also, the desire or not for vengeance by the direct victims is not so important to me. As a society we are all victims of Meg, Beth and Amy’s crimes. The fact that Victim 1 or Victims 2 and 3’s families may or may not want vengeance can be determined to some extent by how forcefully they go after civil damages. Of course, it is easier for a judge to punish a criminal lightly for a crime when the victim or the victim’s family desires that, but a judge must think of society as a whole. As for any desire for substantial punishment by a victim or a victim’s family, that too should weigh lightly for the same reason.

    So, here is how I come down:

    Each of Meg, Beth and Amy’s sentence is 100 DAYS of community service to be performed within a 2 year period, preferably some type of service where they would be out in public with a scarlet D on their overalls.

    If this were not a first time offense, but only a first conviction, for any of them, I would sentence that person to 2 years imprisonment (with the sentence set for a long enough time that even with good behavior, 2 years must actually be served). If this were a second conviction, the minimum sentence would be 5 years.

    Notice that I am not considering the fortuitiveness of any damage (including death) being suffered or not.

    Comment by Ira — 12/22/2008 @ 12:10 pm

  35. Joel, #17, guilty of hijacking a thread.

    It would make an interesting thread on its own. I agree with all those who say Dymond’s Dad is a HERO to her and to society based on the hypothetical facts. Under those facts, there was a kidnapping occurring, and anyone can announce himself as the police. (Hey, didn’t Fat Tony actually have a gun, and not a knife and didn’t he say, “I’m a police detective. Come with me,” while jumping out and pointing the gun in the jogger’s face?) So, under the hypothetical facts, even if Dymond’s Dad actually heard them, he did the right thing. Ugh. Apparently the “officers,” even if they were not acting in violation of the law and were acting in good faith, were NOT acting like officers of the law.

    Comment by Ira — 12/22/2008 @ 12:30 pm

  36. Good point in that the object in front of the respective cars when they veered from the roadway were entirely random, and insomuch as this is the case, there should be some commonality in sentencing. Then again, in two of the cases innocent lives were snuffed out. Meg has reason to be thankful that her accident resulted in propery damage alone. Beth’s victim’s family notwithstanding, she commited a crime against the state (hence “CA v. Beth”). Their wishes should be part of the mix, but not the greater part.

    Being the first offense for any of the girls, I’d sentence the liquor store smasher to six months of weekend detention, some of it in alcohol education, some of it in alcohol abuse related community service.

    Beth and Amy need to spend some time in prison. Granted, all three committed the same offense, it was but luck (albeit bad) that placed people in front of their cars. Everyone who buys a lottery ticket also commits a common act; luck smiles on but a few. So, six months incarceration, plus restitution (as much as the law will allow, probably best left to the civil side (this is where victim’s familial wishes can be expressed)), plus again community service and education. Would also toss their license for a year with a breathalyzer starter override for a second year.

    I’d like to see Beth and Amy have to interact with their victim’s families so as to really internalize the cost, but would hate to have the killer of a family member forced upon the family.

    Overall, I’m a proponent of shorter sentences with provisions that make the perps really understand the ramification(s) of their acts. For those who won’t learn, VP Cheney’s remark to Sen. Lehey apply.

    Comment by Chris — 12/22/2008 @ 1:44 pm

  37. RE: Milburns — I’ve got two daughters. Were it my girl being “apprehended” in the manner described, I’d react in the same way, although I’ve got to give him kudos for his fire discipline. Even if this were the right address and the right girl, the arrest method invited trouble, at the least.

    In that they were two blocks and one skin color off (thus, gosh, likely wrong), the aforementioned invited trouble was pretty predictable.

    No charges against dad. Fire the supervisor who approved the arrest method. Police Chief and mayor damn well better apologize publicly and in private. Better include cop’s family, too, so they understand that their family member’s deaths are at the foot of the city, not the homeowner. Find good candidate to run in next mayoral campaign (dad..?).

    Comment by Chris — 12/22/2008 @ 2:04 pm

  38. Amy and Beth both get manslaughter. They get identical sentences. If I am correct criminal complaints read The State of… v. “so-and-so”. Therefore the person did not transgress solely against the victim, but also against the state. As such, a penalty of incarceration is due to the state. The state has no obligation to consider the wishes of the family in it’s decision about prosecution. Civil matters can be taken up by the families. Think O.J. and the Goldsteins.

    Comment by Doctor Hook — 12/22/2008 @ 10:56 pm

  39. Dr Hook,

    I thought it was defendant v. Person Bringing Charges

    Comment by Scott Jacobs — 12/23/2008 @ 5:18 am

  40. Here’s a new one for you: Can Madoff be charged with felony murder because of this suicide?

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jFShThgSBha0jHZDYmaPD_dXJdEQD958NI600

    Comment by Steven Den Beste — 12/23/2008 @ 4:20 pm

  41. No.

    Comment by nk — 12/23/2008 @ 5:03 pm

  42. Oh, OK. Sorry to bother you.

    Comment by Steven Den Beste — 12/23/2008 @ 5:55 pm

  43. Felony murder only applies in the commission of crimes of violence which themselves involve a substantial danger of death or great bodily harm. Where the defendant created a situation in which the possibility that people could die during the commission of the crime is very real. Robbery, burglary, kidnapping, sheep stealing ….

    Comment by nk — 12/23/2008 @ 6:35 pm

  44. The only thing close enough would be depraved indifferance, which doesn’t fit either…

    No, the guy is just your regular old pile o’ crap.

    Comment by Scott Jacobs — 12/23/2008 @ 6:57 pm

  45. Dr. Hook,

    It is the Goldmans, not the Goldsteins.

    Comment by PCD — 12/24/2008 @ 7:09 am

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