Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Is this Justice?

I'm really confused as to how this scenario makes sense in any universe.

A woman, whose son was killed by a vehicle while jaywalking with her, could face up to 3 years in prison for homicide by vehicle and reckless conduct.  For whatever reason, she was out late in the evening with her children, and rather than wait any longer at night by herself with her kids, she decided to cross the street.

The man who hit and killed her kid (it was determined to be a hit-and-run) Jerry Guy, admitted that he had been drinking before the incident.  According to the article I read, Guy served 6 months in jail.  How in the blue fuck does this equate to justice?

I get it, the woman's actions contributed to getting her kid killed.  I'm not saying that she shouldn't face some sort of punishment, but should she serve a sentence so much longer than the guy who actually killed her son?  And better yet, the guy admitted to drinking before the incident.  I don't know if he was technically drunk while driving, but still, what the hell?

What makes this worse is the fact that she has 2 other children.  Now, not only does she have to live with the fact that she likely got her son killed, but now her other 2 children will have to suffer doubly by having to deal with their mother being in jail for 3 years.  What could the reasoning behind the sentencing conceivably be?  To be honest, I don't know.

What's confusing is that this article is incredibly vague about the details surrounding the incident.  It mentions that Guy admitted he had been drinking before the incident, but it doesn't say if he was at all drunk while driving.  There's also little in the way of describing the traffic situation, exactly what time at night she was out, or why the hell she didn't see a car coming her way.  So how do we know who is more at fault?

We've all jaywalked, but when one jaywalks one usually is extra cautious as to the traffic situation.  It could be, given all the evidence, that she is more culpable.  If it was a pure accident, if the guy was not impared and the situation was such that he had no reaction time, then perhaps it was more her fault and she deserves a larger sentence.

What do you all think?  Is this justice or not?


Silverfiddle said...

I've got to completely agree with you on this one.

How does a drunk driver who killed someone and then took off get only six months?

And going after the mother is insane, one more instance of prosecutorial abuse.

Jack Camwell said...

What's striking is how vague the news article is about all the details. For example, was the guy considered DUI?

Damien Charles QC said...

Without knowing the full details of the case, the evidence and behaviour of the mother in the court, I suspect we are seeing two factors.

The first is that by definition there is a jaywalking law which means if the law was broken and it resulted in death then in fact it raises the seriousness of charge and possibly up to manslaughter (not involentary because the breaking of the law was intentional).

The second what is called a "position of trust and responsibility" and that is of a parent to take care of thier child under their control. When one takes a child over a street one takes control, responsibilty and thus is entrusted to do so with care. Obviously she failed in that.

Depending on the arguments given and reactions of the mother in the court there could be a factor of not seeing an undertanding of the responsibility factor which often results in the higher end of a sentence. Technically speaking, the fact that the person is a mother has no bearing on the sentence in a case resulting in non-neglegent death but only on parole hearings later on.

As for the driver, I do not know that persons' case, remorse, situation, priors and he would have been charged under neglegence which she was not.

Having said all that, it is very sad indeed.

Peter McCullough said...

In the hellish bureaucratic nightmare we are living there is little or no room for common sense r sympathy.
I must say, as someone who has been to traffic court on several occasions and one time witnessed a single mother having her license confiscated because she didn't have the $45 to pay her fine for parking in a bus stop, pleading with the judge and prosecutor for a payment plan so she could get to work but to no avail, while the Haitian immigrant without a driver's license or auto registration driving through a plate glass window storefront walking out of court unscathed since he had the foresight to bring an attorney, nothing surprises me.

Jack Camwell said...

Very interesting points Damien, and well valued coming from a barrister =) I honestly hadn't thought of the case in those terms.

Peter: it's maddening when we see justice unevenly applied. Sometimes it makes me wonder if any human is fit to mete out justice.

Harrison said...

Marcia Gay Harden killed a kid who jaywalked 8 or 9 years ago I don't believe the mother was charged.

I read this article last weekend and the reason why she jaywalked was because the bus stop was across from her house but to use a crosswalk she'd have to walk 3/10ths of a mile there and 3/10ths of a mile back and it was getting late.

I think she was not sentenced to jail.

No, it is not justice and I wonder how much of an issue mandatory sentences played in this matter.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes it makes me wonder if any human is fit to mete out justice?

Well, that's just it, Jack. We are not fit to sit in judgment on one another. That's GOD's job, and we need to let Him do it without undue interference from us.

I am a conservative-libertarian, but I am also one of those strange people who believes that punishment, itself, is a crime. Except in the most extreme cases of murder, violent assault, wanton destruction of property, blackmail and sadistic harassment, I don't think we should punish people at all.

Instead, we should do everything possible to aid and comfort the victims of horrible events of all kinds, and to restore to them as much of what they lost as possible.

Punishing the two siblings left behind after losing their brother by putting their mother in jail is adding insult to injury.

Of course, we know next-to nothing about this mother, the kind of life led by this family or anything else, so it's really hard to make a sensible assessment of the situation. I'm assuming she is not a drugged up, streetwalker known for chronic child abuse and neglect.

I'm sure Mr. Charles means well, but the kind of legalistic hair-splitting he advocates doesn't do anyone any good but his fellow lawyers. In truth the Legal Mind is an abomination to most of us laymen. Society has become horribly screwed up by a surfeit of litigiousness. We do not have a government of by and for the people anymore. That has been supplanted by a government of by and for judges and lawyers. And look what a Fucked Up Chinese Fire Drill that has made of society!

~ FreeThinke

Damien Charles QC said...


I hate to burst your bubble but laws are necessary or chaos prevails.

Add to that when one makes laws how do you make them, do you just make them from the top of one's head or does one write them down and if one does write them down in what language do we do it? Shall we do it ambigiously or in a clear and consistant manner?

Now, how about actually implementing them, do we follow the rules and laws that we make or do we do so in most cases but for the hell of it, make an exception here or there.

The truth of the matter folks is that we need laws and 90 per cent of the problem is either not writing them in a correct manner and thus giving to much "flexibility" (and thus inconsistancy) or allowing beaurocrats write laws instead of professionals suggesting them to lawmakers.

Your problem in the US is that you have different State Laws that are inconsistant, way to much flexibility with judges AND council members and civil servants in fact set fines, not courts, police or politicians.

Anonymous said...

away from the "are we as humans good to live without laws" argument, I read through the linked article.
Jerry Guy has priors, 2 earlier hit and runs. He was also on prescription pain meds.
The jury..... Piers my ass. No member of the jury answered yes when they were asked if they had used public transportation.
The city....... cock bags

"Balko asks why city planners are placing bus stops nearly a mile away from the nearest crosswalk. He argues that making the streets safer for people on foot (the area is consistently listed as one of the most unsafe for pedestrians) is a more humane and sensical approach than putting away a mother who has already lost a son. "If their aim was to make an example of a devastated mother to prevent others from jaywalking, they're delusional," he says.
Yahoo news blog "Mother whose son was killed in hit-and-run faces two years in jail for jaywalking" by Liz Goodwin

Jersey McJones said...


I disagree with your assertion that Judges have too much discretion here in America as it would pertain to this case.

Yes, there are some sentencing guidelines that are very loose, but we also have many very stringent sentencing laws that preclude judicial flexibility - especially as it relates to traffic, drug, and some other laws.

(Our horrifically draconian and inflexible "three-strike" sentencing laws are a perfect example.)

I would suspect that in this case the judge was confined by traffic laws and had little choice but to mete the sentences.

Or, of course, he's insane. ;)


LD Jackson said...

I heard this story on the news yesterday and would have written on it, had I not ran out of time.

Harrison is right, the reason the woman crossed the street where she did was because her apartment was right across the street from the bus stop. One has to wonder why the city placed the bus stop where there was no crossing.

The idea that someone could be drinking and driving, hit a child and kill him, and face less jail time than the mother of the child? Well, that thought sickens me and makes me wonder what our justice system is coming to.

Jack Camwell said...

Very good discussion from everyone, and thanks for stopping by FreeThinke.

FreeThinke: Justice is something that must be done in temporal life as well as the spiritual. I think that part of the reason we exist at all is so that we can experience what it is like to be happy. How can humans be happy if the only law is one's conscience, knowing that the conscience of most persons is not enough to restrain them from harming others?

Justice is an extremely important thing, one of Aristotle's cardinal virtues. Although we may be imperfect, I suppose that shouldn't stop us from trying to be fair and just.

Damien Charles QC said...

JMJ, I agree and it was a general remark in regard to ordinances and infringements. Yes there are some very strict laws that give no or little manouvering. I have no problem with strict laws as long as they are very carefully defined and as an active man of faith (Catholic) I believe there is a capacity to include strict guidelines on a "compassion element" for judges in regards to sentancing.

Jack, I think this is a good discussion, it shows values, various thinking and interest in the different situations that do confront us.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jack. Good to discover you, and to be here.

Mr. Charles, I didn't mean to imply that we needed anarchy, which of course leads to chaos, only that what-I-see-as an overly litigious mentality, and too much literal interpretation of the law that disregards or willfully misinterprets the spirit behind it has produced an ill effect on society.

I'm not first to think that. These fellows phrased it better than I:

"Good laws lead to the making of better ones; bad ones bring about worse. As soon as any man says of the affairs of the State, 'What does it matter to me?' the State may be given up for lost."

Rousseau (1712-1778)

"When you break the big laws, you do not get freedom; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws."

G.K. Chesterton - in the London Daily News, 7/29/1905


~ FreeThinke