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November 11, 2008

An example of homicide victim's family asking for sentencing leniency

The Supreme Court's disinclination to consider a pair of victim impact capital cases (basics here) has already prompted some commentors to complain about victims having a role in the criminal justice system.  But this local story from Utah provides yet another example of how victims can often be a voice for sentencing leniency even when the defendant is facing homicide charges:

Driving while talking on a cell phone is a dangerous mix for one mom. "Oh it breaks my heart,” said Linda Mulkey. “It’s such a dangerous habit."

Mulkey knows first hand about the consequences of a distracted driver.  She lost her only daughter in a car accident. 18 months ago, Lauren Mulkey just graduated from East High.  She died when Theodore Jorgensen ran a red light while fidgeting with his cell phone. "You don't get over losing a child,” said Mulkey. “You just learn to deal with the pain. It hurts everyday. My whole future is wiped out."

But Monday in court, Mulkey had the courage to forgive Jorgensen.  The 20-year old pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and faced sentencing.  But Mulkey asked the judge that she didn’t want him serving at prison time.  “It just didn’t make any sense,” she said.  Instead, she asked that Jorgensen be required to do community service.

In court, Jorgensen apologized to Mulkey. He turned to face her and said "I'm sorry for the pain I've caused."

“It took me a long time to reach this point,” she said. “But the more I saw him in court I realized he was a young scared man who had loving parents and I didn’t see any point in him sitting in jail.”

The judge agreed placing Jorgensen on probation and ordering him to do 500 hours of community service. “I’m hoping we can make joint appearances at schools,” she said. “His story and my story would make powerful messages to students.”

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Comments

Bingo. This is yet another example to counter all those who say that emotion has no place in the legal system. Victim's impact statements can cut both ways.

Posted by: Daniel | Nov 11, 2008 5:20:29 PM

Someone died here, so I think that some jail time (weekends) would have been appropriate, as well as restitution.

However, I applaud this woman's kindness. I certainly hope that were I in such a situation I would have the grace to understand that in this world accidents happen.

Posted by: federalist | Nov 11, 2008 5:28:50 PM

As someone who commented on the Kelly and Zamudio cert denials, let me clarify that I, for one, was not complaining about victims having a role in the criminal justice system. I am complaining about unduly prejudicial presentations with minimal probative value being introduced into criminal proceedings.

Similarly, I have never said that "emotion has no place in the legal system." Although emotion should be kept to a minimum, it often does have some role. As I explained in my cert denial comments, victim impact evidence is relevant. However, it must not be unduly prejudicial when contrasted against a minimal probative value.

Concerning federalist's comment that some jail time should have been imposed only because of the fact that someone died is contrary to what the legislature thought. Obviously, the legislature thought that some cases of negligent homicide did not warrant any jail time. If there are such cases, then this is it.

Posted by: DEJ | Nov 12, 2008 12:10:47 PM

Bravo! Reconciliation, not retribution, is surely the highest goal of the criminal justice system.

However, vic statements do seem to introduce arbitrariness into the system, especially in a case like this where the victim was chosen randomly. Oh well - Payne decided that issue two decades ago.

Posted by: rothmatisseko | Nov 13, 2008 1:45:24 PM

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