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.