Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Another bad decision and another criminal sentence

I did a post recently about how a bad decision by a Wisconsin man resulted in him going to prison for 23 years.   With that in mind, consider the sentence given to Linda Hamm.

As reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Ms. Hamm pleaded guilty Monday to criminal vehicular homicide in the death of 54-year-old Ann Blake.  Ms. Blake's blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit when she drove onto a concrete median and struck Ann Blake, a recently widowed 54-year-old mother of two.  The impact of the collision threw Ms. Blake across "at least" four lanes of traffic.  When she was apprehended by police, Ms. Hamm had an open bottle of vodka in her car.

So what sentence does one get for killing a 54-year-old and leaving two thirteen-year-olds orphans?  A year in the Hennepin County workhouse, 120 hours of community service,  an order to undergo treatment for chemical dependency, and random drug testing.

What do you think Mr. Torvik, was justice done?

1 comment:

  1. Boy, hard to say. Is criminal sentencing some sort of macho game where the person who did a bad thing must suffer something commensurate to the suffering caused? If so, one year in the workhouse seems incommensurate to the loss of a life and the creation of two orphans.

    But if a criminal sentence is meant to deter, rather than to promote some sort of cosmic harmony, then one year in the workhouse may well be a just sentence. One year is a significant amount of time to be imprisoned. The threat of one year in jail may not be significantly different than 10 or 15 years from a deterrence perspective. It's hard to imagine the would-be criminal deciding that just one year of lost freedom is worth the risk, but not five, or ten, etc. It's hard to know, of course, but my intuition is that a one-year sentence is probably pretty close to an optimal sentence to deter this kind of impulsive behavior.

    We'll never eliminate stupid, unacceptable behavior like this. Even if we put all drunk drivers to death, some people would still drive drunk.

    One thing is for sure. The difference between the 23 years for the guy who sucker-punched someone and the 1 year for the woman who drunkenly ran over a woman shows that criminal sentences in this country follow no consistent rhyme or reason. For that reason alone, our criminal justice system is an embarrassment.


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