Archive for Thursday, February 19, 2004

Respect for life lost seems absent in judge’s decision

February 19, 2004

Last week, a Douglas County District Court judge found the 20-year-old man who slammed head-on into a car driven by Eudora High School secretary Tisha Downing guilty of a misdemeanor charge of vehicular homicide.
The decision appears at odds with common sense because it required the judge to find the young driver wasn't reckless -- a requirement for a felony manslaughter charge.
Most of us, on witnessing a driver attempt to pass three cars near the crest of a hill in a marked no-passing zone, would think the driver wasn't exercising proper caution. But more than likely, we would also find a word that implied a more willful action with dangerous consequences. Unconscionable would probably come to mind, as would criminal, stupid and deadly. The act might not have been intended deadly harm, but that was a fully predictable result.
We understand the words with which a witness would likely define the act might not fit all the legal definitions. Law and legal opinions are not all that straightforward. We also understand prisons are terrible places that should be reserved for those who have committed deliberate criminal acts.
The sentence could be a year in the county jail. Nothing can replace a mother missing from a child's life, a wife's presence to a widower, or the lost friendship of a co-worker. But the survivors surely want to know the state respects their loss. Furthermore, we all need assurance that a willful disobedience of one of the most basic traffic laws will be punished severely.
The punishment should be appropriate, but it should also demonstrate an appreciation to the preciousness of the life lost. We wonder if that was true in this instance.

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