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Friday, March 5, 2010

The Crime Not Committed Yet Punished

I don't think many criminal defense attorneys would disagree with the statement that people who commit crimes should be held accountable for their actions. Prosecutors, criminal defense lawyers and judges will debate over the correct way to hold people accountable for their wrongdoings. However, what about the situation when someone is held accountable for something they didn't do or the crime not committed yet punished?

While there was a recent editorial in the Charlotte Observer about Greg Taylor being declared innocent after spending 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, there are other stories on a smaller scale where people convicted of DWI/DUI, drug offenses or other misdemeanors in district court had convictions reversed on appeal.

Simple Justice had another great post addressing this issue. Toyota has been in the news daily; brake pedals malfunctioning, drivers not responsible for car accidents with some people being tragically killed. The post addressed the New York case of Koua Fong Lee;  Mr. Lee was convicted of vehicular homicide after his Toyota Camry hit a car in 2006 that resulted in the death of 2 people. Mr. Lee was sentenced to 8 years. During the criminal trial, he claimed that he kept pumping the brakes as he exited the Interstate but the brakes failed to work. I imagine the case will now be reopened, but a defendant on appeal has an uphill battle.

After a person is convicted, they are sentenced. Many expect the defendant to take responsibility for his actions and ask the court for mercy at the time of sentencing. But cases like Greg Taylor and Koua Lee present a terrible scenario for any person. The Simple Justice Blog make an interesting point:
Lee's crime was being involved in an accident where people died. When someone dies, people see a crime and demand a criminal. Separate the anger at the outcome from the conduct involved, as we are now able to do in light of the Toyota defense, and this doesn't appear to have been a crime at all. In fact, the allegations clearly lead to the conclusion that it was a tragic accident. Lee was in his 1996 Toyota with his pregnant wife, father, daughter, brother and niece. Was his care for others so demented that he put them all at risk by ramming into other cars? It sounds ridiculous now. Today, a couple years later and after a wave of Toyota recalls, the conviction looks horrible wrong. 
 Any skilled criminal defense attorney must prepare not only their criminal case, but they must also prepare for sentencing. The client must be prepared. However, these two types of cases represent the unthinkable situation- the crime not committed yet punished.

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posted by Carilyn Ibsen at


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so timely. We own a Toyota, albeit a Camry Hybrid, getting confusing information as to whether or not this model is involved in the recalls. I remember working for a major insurance company when the Ford-Firestone tire blowout scandal came to the forefront. We actually researched the database for all the solo vehicle accidents, particularly those that included the death of the insured. Keep in mind if the insured dies in a solo vehicle accident there is usually 0-small chance of a payout on the death, only the auto. It was all about subrogation against Ford and Firestone...but these issues do snowball. People always seem to forget the meaning of the word "accident".

March 5, 2010 at 12:34 PM  

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