Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Deadly Crashes, Disparate Justice

The Star Tribune's recurring articles on drunken driving, called Smashed, have been a don't-miss part of the paper lately. From frequent briefs focusing on one individual with repeat offenses to the recent story on Ramsey and Anoka counties' successes with repeat offenders, it's always eye-opening.

Today's paper carried a related story that had me shaking my head, particularly in light of the recent story of Koua Fong Lee, who was convicted of criminal vehicular homicide and sentenced to 8 years in prison despite the fact that he was clearly not culpable in the deadly accident.

Contrast Lee's sentence with that of Kristen Driscoll, who was so drunk that she passed out while driving, hitting and killing a man who was sitting at a bus stop. Driscoll, who was on her way home from her daughter's high school graduation last June, is white, middle-aged, female and from a well-to-do neighborhood in Minneapolis. What was her sentence?

8 months in the county jail, of which she was supposed to serve 4, then spend the latter 4 months on work release during the day. But today's paper revealed that the Hennepin County workhouse has been letting her out during the day for the past few weeks to work at the library.

At the time of her conviction, prosecutors asked for a 4-year sentence. But Driscoll's contrition and fine civic reputation (aside from driving drunk) must have swayed the sentencing judge.

Lee, on the other hand, had the temerity to claim he was not at fault for his terrible crash, and that, combined with the fact that he's not a nice white lady from a rich neighborhood, put him in jail for 8 years.

1 comment:

Ms Sparrow said...

By the time the system has released Lee, he will have a great case for a wrongful imprisonment lawsuit. Why can't they let the poor guy out now?