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Stupid Prosecution of the Week

by TChris

What started as a joke ended in tragedy as a 14 year old boy put his 5 year old half sister into a large coin-operated washing machine.

The boy put no coins in the machine but it started anyway, [defense attorney John] Graham said. The boy tried "frantically" to stop the washer and free his sister, taking a large rock from the parking lot to smash at the glass, Graham said.

The tragedy was compounded when a Virginia prosecutor charged the kid with manslaughter. That decision was foolish: the boy has been punished enough by the death of his sister, and he had no way of knowing that the machine would start on its own. Fortunately, calmer heads prevailed, and the charges were dismissed today.

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  • Re: Stupid Prosecution of the Week (none / 0) (#1)
    by desertswine on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:47 PM EST
    How tragic that the boy must carry this burden for the rest of his life.

    Re: Stupid Prosecution of the Week (none / 0) (#2)
    by Kitt on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:47 PM EST
    One of the reasons that all of the adults between my sister's family and ours were (are) 'on call.' Although they can watch their younger siblings for a time, there's always the possibility of their not being able to think beyond the immediate. Unplugging the machine, flipping the circuitbreaker.... Jesus - what a thing to be responsible for and not at all meaning to be.

    Re: Stupid Prosecution of the Week (none / 0) (#3)
    by cpinva on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:49 PM EST
    why did they decide to charge him in the first place? that would the $64k question.

    Re: Stupid Prosecution of the Week (none / 0) (#4)
    by jarober on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:49 PM EST
    That kid should be charged with something, at the juvenile level at least. At 14, he knew full well that what he was doing was wrong. "Living with" the knowledge that he killed his sister is not punishment enough.

    Re: Stupid Prosecution of the Week (none / 0) (#5)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:49 PM EST
    "Living with" the knowledge that he killed his sister is not punishment enough.
    Just curious James... How much punishment of a 14 year old child, suffering over knowing he accidentally killed his little sister, would be enough to satisfy you? I expect he'll reply it in his dreams every night for most of his life...

    Re: Stupid Prosecution of the Week (none / 0) (#6)
    by scarshapedstar on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:49 PM EST
    James, you're crazy. If he meant to turn the machine on, that'd be one thing. But you really are just sick.

    Re: Stupid Prosecution of the Week (none / 0) (#7)
    by jarober on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:50 PM EST
    For those of you that called me "sick", let me ask a simple question - would you feel comfortable having your children in the same place with that kid? How about alone with that kid? I can tell you, I most definitely would not be comfortable with either.

    Re: Stupid Prosecution of the Week (none / 0) (#8)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:50 PM EST
    James Robertson:
    would you feel comfortable having your children in the same place with that kid?
    I repeat - how much punishment would be enough to satisfy you?

    Re: Stupid Prosecution of the Week (none / 0) (#9)
    by jarober on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:50 PM EST
    How much punishment? Incarceration until he's 18, with psychiatric evaluation.

    Re: Stupid Prosecution of the Week (none / 0) (#10)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:51 PM EST
    Psychiatric treatment to help the kid deal with it is probably a good idea, I would agree - I imagine he'll have some very deep seated and long term extreme guilt, and who knows how far he may go, and what he might achieve, in his adult years if he doesn't sink into chronic depression. As a society, I think we should help him adjust, as far as we are capable. What if he's the one who would have grown up to find a cure for some intractable disease, or make some as yet unimaginable scientific or philosophical breakthrough? I prefer, I guess, to think in terms of potential, rather than punishment...
    The boy tried "frantically" to stop the washer and free his sister, taking a large rock from the parking lot to smash at the glass, Graham said.
    In my opinion incarceration wouldd probably worsen the situation - he obviously showed remorse, and did his best to save his baby sister.

    Re: Stupid Prosecution of the Week (none / 0) (#11)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:52 PM EST
    One final point: civil liability. There is ZERO reason why commecial and domestic dryers don't have emergency stop buttons. These are large machines which can and do kill children every year. Most are installed in such a way that the power cannot be reached, and there is no way of knowing where a circuit breaker is in most laundromats. A cut-out switch would cost all of about $10 -- and save lives. In this sense, James is blaming the victim.