Local Cases of Prosecutorial Misconduct...
June 21, 2007 08:06 AM
...are all over the paper this morning. First up is Butler County Prosecutor's decision to prosecute the Miami students who got drunk with the girl who died on the railroad tracks:
Three of the accused women - Christine Carr, Kathleen Byrne and Kristina Sicker - have court appearances today on charges of permitting underage consumption at a private place.
Danielle Davis faces the same charge in court July 5. Maureen Grady is to appear June 28 on a charge of furnishing alcohol to an underage person while at an uptown bar.
Like Speidel, the women were themselves too young to drink legally.
How on earth do any of these woman share any more responsibility for this tragedy than the girl who died?
And second up is the Hamilton County Prosecutor's horrific decision to prosecute 16 year-old Chad Metzgar. He's the kid from Northwest High School who was driving when Lauren Dietz and Miranda Phelps were killed last week. That community is appalled by Joe Deters' decision:
"Nobody wants to lose anybody anymore in any type of manner," said Jeanne Glore, a close friend of the Dietz family.
Glore called on the community to continue to come together each Wednesday to grieve and bond. The gatherings will also be a sign of solidarity for Metzcar.
Joe Deters wants to have Metzgar tried as an adult, which means if he is convicted, he will be serving hard time in a state prison with the worse of the worst. He faces 13 1/2 years. I heard Joe Deters speak about this issue yesterday, and his explanation was basically that they have brought similar charges in similar cases. What kind of excuse is that? Where's the introspection about whether the charges in those cases were excessive, too?
One of the fundamental principles of criminal law is that the punishment is supposed to match the mens rea (mental state) of the offending party. For centuries, criminal law has recognized that accidents happen. But in Hamilton County, prosecutors have made it a policy to always seek jail time whenever there is a fatal car accident. This means all of us are always one wrong turn away from a lengthy jail sentence.
It used to be that prosecutors would excercise discretion, and not bring charges when there was an accident. When I heard Joe Deters speak yesterday, the principle of prosecutorial discretion seemed lost on him. It's a shame.