Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Sad Lesson in American Justice

Two crimes and two punishments. Both NFL Players. You tell me which punishment more closely fits which crime.

CRIME #1 -
Conspiracy to Travel in Interstate Commerce in Aid of Unlawful Activities and to Sponsor a Dog in an Animal Fighting Venture
CRIME #2 - Manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol

PUNISHMENT A - 30 days in jail, two years of house arrest, eight years probation, pay $10,000 in fines and perform 1,000 hours of community service.
PUNISHMENT B- A maximum of 5 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and 3 years of supervised release

CRIME #1 was committed by Michael Vick. He received punishment B. His maximum jail time was 1,825 days

CRIME #2 was committed by Donte Stallworth. He received punishment A. His maximum jail time is 30 days.

I am not trying to downplay what Vick did in any way, but how the hell do you get less jail time for KILLING A PERSON WHILE DRIVING DRUNK than you do for killing dogs? It's terrible to kill dogs, of course, but how do we live in a country where killing an animal gets a more severe punishment than killing a person?

And I am afraid that the answer to that question is really going to piss me off. Now I am wondering, what is the punishment for? Take a look at these two quips from each news story (emphasis mine).

... received a harsher sentence than the others in the federal conspiracy case because of "less than truthful" statements about killing pit bulls. Vick said he accepted responsibility for his actions, but U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson said he wasn't so sure. "I'm not convinced you've fully accepted responsibility," Hudson told Vick.
Lyons said Stallworth had accepted full responsibility for his actions. "He acted like a man, he reported it immediately to the police through 911, he remained at the scene, he co-operated fully with the Miami Beach Police Department," Lyons said.
What the fuck are we punishing people for? Whether or not they are sorry? Is this kindergarten? Do we take defendants over to the people they harmed and ask them to 'tell them you're sorry?'
  • "I know I committed genocide, but I am truly sorry for that."
  • "I take full responsibility for the rape and murder. That one's on me."
I am confused about the criminal system. Why are we doling out punishment based on people's contrition in the face of their crimes rather than the actual crimes themselves?


  1. huffpo meets humor slays me, an interesting piece here. the most interesting question here, though, is - is ace going conservative on us?

    next, you'll be defending plax's 2nd ammendment rights.

    then you will overturn roe v wade.

    then you will reinstitute waterboarding.

    then you will raise or lower taxes.

    then you will impose economic sanctions on blue states.

    then you will campaign for cheney '12.

    then you will annex canada.

  2. Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea.

    -Ezra Schneck

    P.S. I found your Jew in the Modern World when I moved. Please let me know where I can send it to.

  3. To clarify: I think the difference is in the mental state. Vick acted intentionally. Stallworth was negligent, or even reckless, but not intentional. Had Vick done to people what he did to dogs, he would likely be on death row. Likewise, had Vick only been negligent or reckless with those dogs, he would not have gone to jail for 2 years.

    Criminal law punishes not only actus reas (bad acts) but ALSO mens rea (bad mental state).


  4. 2 things
    1) If you drink and drive, shouldn't we say that ipso facto (I had to come back with some Latin) you acted intentionally?

    2) I feel like 30 days in jail is not even punishing actus reas.

  5. (1) No, it means you were reckless. What you might mean is that reckless killing that exhibit a depraved indifference to human life are also murder.

    NY actually has a separate crime for DUI homicides called "vehicular homicide."

    (2) That may be true. My point was the comparison to Vick is invalid unless you account for the different mental states.