Is This Justice?

Discussion in 'Law and Justice System' started by George Costanza, Sep 11, 2011.

  1. George Costanza
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    George Costanza A Friendly Liberal

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    Eight miles or so northeast of Los Angeles, the San Gabriel mountains cut across the San Gabriel Valley, separating the greater Los Angeles Area from the High Desert. Now, there are three or four ways to traverse the San Gabriels if you want to drive up, into Northern California. Sixty years ago, there were only a couple of ways to do it.

    One of those ways was (and still is) a steep and winding two-lane road called the Angeles Crest Highway. It is very steep going up, in a northerly direction and it is equally steep going down in a southerly direction from the summit into the town of La Canada-Flintridge.

    Two years ago, a truck driver by the name of Marcos Costa, was bringing his big rig down the Angeles Crest, headed for La Canada-Flintridge. Somewhere along the way, the brakes went out on his rig. Marcos was unable to stop the huge truck and it ended up hitting a passenger vehicle occupied by Angel Posca and his 12-year-old daughter. They both died in the crash.

    Last week, Marcos Costa was sentenced to seven and one-half years in state prison, following his conviction for vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving. Prior to this accident, Marcos Costa had led an exemplary life, never getting into any kind of trouble.

    Whenever I read something like this, I want to throw up. One of the first things that is taught to first year criminal law students is the concept of mens rea. Here is how Wiki defines that term:

    Note the last sentence of that quote - strict liability crimes. Strict liability crimes do not require a guilty mind. All you have to do to be guilty of a strict liability crime is commit the prohibited act. Once again, Wiki:

    It should be noted that the vast majority of strict liability crimes do not involve serious offenses or confinement in jail or prison as punishment. Parking tickets are strict liability crimes.

    Which brings me to vehicular manslaughter. Any way you want to slice it, a death caused by an automobile accident does not involve mens rea or criminal intent. It is an ACCIDENT. The last thing in the world that Marcos Costa wanted to have happen that day two years ago, was what did happen. Furthermore, once his brakes failed, he was powerless to prevent it and probably did everything he could to stop it from happening.

    Yet Marcos now goes off to state prison for seven and one half years. This is not justice.

    Of course the deaths were tragic. Of course if Marcos and/or his employer were at fault in any way for the accident, they should be required to pay appropriate damages to the injured family of the people who died by way of a CIVIL action in a CIVIL court.

    Think on this - vehicular manslaughter is the only crime I know of where your wife can get in her car, go to the store, and wind up in state prison without ever being allowed to return to the family home until she has served her sentence.

    What are we doing here?

    p.s. - I am aware that the brakes on the truck failed, which was the primary cause of the accident. I am also aware that that should not have happened and whoever allowed it to happen is at fault for what took place because of their negligence in not keeping the brakes in good shape. That does not mean that this was done with any criminal intent, however and, unless criminal intent is proven, this case belongs only in a civil court, not a criminal court.
     
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    Last edited: Sep 11, 2011
  2. percysunshine
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    percysunshine Gold Member

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    As usual, no link is provided.
     
  3. George Costanza
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    George Costanza A Friendly Liberal

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    What do you mean, "as usual"? I always try to provide links whenever I can. The article on this came to me this morning in a throwaway paper called the Valley Sun out of La Canada/Flintridge. I didn't think to provide a link because I didn't think they even had a Web site. Turns out they do. Here is the link:

    Family is happy Costa trial is over - LA Canada
     
  4. percysunshine
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    percysunshine Gold Member

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    Thanks.

    There is still not enough info in the article to decide if 3 1/2 years is appropriate. Did the driver know he had bad brakes and neglected to have them fixed? Was he drunk? We don't know the specifics.

    In general; I agree that, barring any extenuating circumstances, an accident does not merit anything that severe. A fine, revocation of driving priveleges, and enough time in jail for a person to think about it would be better.
     
  5. George Costanza
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    George Costanza A Friendly Liberal

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    I think I covered this in my p.s. to the opening post. If the driver knew he had bad brakes and neglected to have them fixed, we are getting out of the area of plain negligence and into the area of gross negligence - but we are still in the civil arena, not criminal. I think if he was drunk, that would have been mentioned in the article.

    But I did have the same thought as you here - the article is a little sketchy as to the justification for the seven year sentence. Still in all, absent proof that the truck driver did this intentionally, so long as it was an accident, I do not agree with criminal prosecution.

    BTW - I know the judge who imposed this sentence. He was a young d.a. back in the early 1990's and we had to deal with him in our court. He was what we called a Mad Dog D.A. - very uncompromising, very ego driven, very unreasonable. Easy to see why he is now on the bench . . . . but that's another issue.
     
  6. koshergrl
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    koshergrl Diamond Member

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    They wouldn't have mentioned it in the article if the article's purpose was to push an agenda that would be harmed by that information.
     
  7. Tank
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    Tank Gold Member

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    Prosecutors argued that Costa showed gross negligence by ignoring an off-duty firefighter's warning that Angeles Crest Highway was too dangerous for his truck and he should turn around.

    Prosecutors said that although Costa poured water on his smoking brakes, he didn't wait for them to cool down before continuing on the highway. The truck hurtled down a one-mile descent.

    Involuntary Manslaughter for Big-Rig Driver | NBC Los Angeles
     
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  8. koshergrl
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    koshergrl Diamond Member

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    Bingo.

    Yes, justice was served.
     
  9. California Girl
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    California Girl BANNED

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    Your vehicle. Your brakes. Your negligence. Your fault. Your consequence. Works for me.
     
  10. Tank
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    Tank Gold Member

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    Costa’s attorney said he saw no signs barring truck traffic but prosecutors said Costa willfully ignored countless warnings that should have given him pause, including an off-duty firefighter flagging him down to say smoke was spewing from his wheels.

    “It was miles and miles and miles of smoke billowing from his brakes telling him something was wrong,” assistant district attorney Carolina Lugo said. “There were just so many opportunities to stop.”

    A post-crash inspection revealed that five of the 10 truck brakes either weren’t working or not adjusted correctly. The five working brakes showed signs of overheating or cracking on the pads, according to court documents.

    Judge sentences Mass. truck driver to 7 years for deadly runaway crash in California - The Washington Post
     

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