Premeditated murder, rape or a heinous violent attack is easier to prosecute than a fatal car accident?
By MARY SANCHEZ
The Kansas City Star
Yes, says Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd. And the reasons ought to silence the armchair judges and juries who got going after last weeks sentencing of a 16-year-old girl who killed a woman while texting and driving.
Deciding appropriate punishment is the issue. Violent people who act with malice deserve to be locked up. But what about good people who make mistakes with horrific consequences?
The teenager made a mistake. And a woman died because of it.
The Northland teen became a poster girl for the dangers of cellphones. She is believed to be the first person in Missouri involved in a fatal accident to be prosecuted under a 2009 law making it illegal for anyone 21 or younger to send, read or write a text message while driving.
The girl pleaded guilty to all charges, including manslaughter, stemming from the September wreck that killed a 72-year-old woman. She served 48 hours of shock time in jail over the weekend, lost her drivers license for the rest of high school and will spend 72 days this summer confined to her home except for work or community service.
Comments flew. Many thought she should serve hard jail time.
Heres how Zahnd viewed it:
There have to be consequences, he said. But in a case like this, you want to do it in a way that doesnt ruin a young persons life.
First, she admitted texting at the scene to police. Never did this child and she is still a child try to evade what she had done.
Second, the victims family didnt want her in prison. She was tried as an adult for a variety of reasons, but her record will be sealed if she completes five years of probation.
Texting and driving simply isnt viewed with the social disdain as drinking and driving. Yet its equally, if not more, dangerous, according to researchers.
It used to be that cops would routinely let drivers pour their liquor out, maybe get a passenger to take the wheel. Prior to the buckle up campaigns, people didnt routinely snap their seat belt in place.
Throughout this case, Zahnd pressed for legislators to extend the no-texting law beyond teenagers. Too many people have wrongly argued that banning everyone from texting and driving would be an overreach.
Theres no difference. Its equally dangerous, no matter the texters age.
Change the law. Prosecute more cases with the firm but compassionate views Zahnd displayed in this case.
Eventually, lives will be saved.
To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.