I think there are probably certain readers/commenters (yes, prosecutors, you know who you are) who aren't going to be swayed by anything I have to say here. You know, it's like me watching Nancy Grace. But, for the rest of you...
Well, you probably got it the first time. But in case you didn't, I guess there are two things.
1. I wonder what went through this prosecutor's mind before she drove home drunk. Yes, it was probably a drunken slurred thought, but I wonder what it was. Was it, "I'm not that drunk," or was it, "I'll get home safe," or "I'm not like those fuck-ups I send to prison," or "I'll never get caught."
I guess it doesn't matter, because the end result is the same. But it interests me the same way I wonder how prosecutors view my clients when they choose to pursue a case.
Do they ever say, "Hey, this guy probably just made a mistake, the same way my friends and I sometimes make a mistake?" No, I don't think so. And, yes, there will be some prosecutors who comment and say, "Yes, I do. I'm very reasonable." Well, good for you, but I submit that most of your colleagues aren't so reasonable.
When I was a rookie I had a few cases that warranted a phone call to the prosecutor that went, "Hey, look, he made a mistake, it was a pretty mistake, the kind of thing that I could see almost anyone doing." And I honestly had prosecutors, again and again, respond, "Well, if you make a mistake like that, you go to prison."
Which leads me to point 2.
2. What would have happened if she had lived? Would she have been prosecuted just as harshly as the defendants she prosecuted? I'm not sure. I personally know of 2 cases here in which prosecutors were caught in compromising situations. Both cases were quietly swept under the rug.
Tom McKenna, a prosecutor, submits:
If I myself engage in those crimes, I would hope that I would be treated as any other similarly situated offender: in fact, I should perhaps be punished more severely since I oughta know better!
And I agree. I think that ninety percent of my sympathy for my PD clients comes from the fact that they aren't in the same position to "oughta know better," because of deficits in their community, their parenting, and their education.
But it seems to me that, in this particular article, the State's Attorney is, to some extent standing by this prosecutor, saying, "She paid the ultimate price—she's dead. That doesn't change the impact of what she has accomplished in the state."
How many times have I said about a client, "He is a good guy who made a mistake. He did this, that, and the other thing for his community?" Some prosecutors will take that into account and offer a better plea bargain, some prosecutors will say, "I don't care if he was the pope."
Maybe the state's attorney is cutting her some slack because she's, well, dead. And it's considered impolite to speak ill of the dead. Maybe if she had survived, the prosecutor's office would be distancing itself from her.
We will never know. But it seems to me that the, "She's a good person who lived a good life and just mad a mistake," is kind of hypocritical. I bet her summations in drunk driving trials didn't include statements like, "He's a good person who has lived a good life, and done good things, and he made a mistake that we could all make." Sure, that's not a prosecutor's job. But I just wonder if she ever even thought it.