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Manslaughter Case Resolved with 15 Month Sentence

State v. Kevin A., there are no winners, only losers. In that case, there was a death of a 19 year old young man after an auto accident with my client who had a .12 blood alcohol content. The 19 year old victim was the son of a long-time local law enforcement officer who had a very well-respected family. My client had a prior OUI 13 years prior and no other criminal record.
Ultimately, we arrived at a plea that was very fair, and involved incarcerating my client for 15 months. It does not please me to see a client go to jail, but this plea deal, along with 3 years of probation, offered my client the ability to have some certainty related to what could have been a much longer sentence (up to 20 years for a manslaughter).
Some might say that this is too light a sentence for a manslaughter. Of course, that is not really for a criminal defense lawyer to ponder, but is a question for others. That said, this family, and specifically the father of the victim, seem to recognize something that I rarely see in cases like this. They understand, and specifically the victim's father spoke about, the fact that a long incarceration period for my client will not bring their son back. Often, I see blind anger by alleged victims and their families, and a thirst for retribution. This was a mature and thoughtful approach by the victim's family to a heartbreaking situation. I wish all the victim's and victim's families I dealt with were as well-reasoned and forgiving.
This is not to say that they didn't want to see punishment. They wanted my client to take responsibility for his actions, which he did. Over and over again in sentencing memos in cases where a client's sentence is unknown I find myself writing the following to judge's: justice is only justice if it is tempered with mercy. The victim's family in this case understands this concept better than most.
This is not to say that my client is an evil person. Quite the contrary. He is a kind, hard-working person who made a mistake. Once it is understood that people can make mistakes and still be good people, jail sentences become less of a must have and more of a last resort. Teaching people to not repeat mistakes is the key.
Either way, there are no winners in this one. My client goes to jail for 15 months and the victim's family is without their son. That said, this is probably closer to justice than we would have any other way.

6 Comments

While I see this as a fair sentence, my concern is that he will not get the treatment he needs in jail to deal with his use of alcohol. While he may participate in DSAT while he is there, it is extremely inpersonal and will not look at the extent and what led him to drink in the first place. While it may be a sentence to light for manslaughter, your client will have to live with and work through the fact that he took the life of another person. While he may have a long time to sit and do that in jail, he won't be able to process it and deal with it fully until he is out. The guilt, shame, and emotions will be a life sentence for your client.

Then I guess you agree with me Rachel that jail does not help with drug treatment issues and that it does not help with recidivism, generally. As far as your comments regarding guilt, although I think of myself as often working wonders for my clients with their cases, getting in touch with erasing guilt is not something I attempt to do. I suspect you are correct, but he can feel guilty as a free man in a year - that is what I am concerned about. Best, Tim

I absolutly agree!! Jail is not the place for drug treatment if they are just going to pass it around in there, not to mention the lack of support, and amount of people that need help who request it and they go days without seeing a social worker. While you can work wonders, no one can bring back the life he took. You're right, he can deal with that in a year. RN

For anyone who has not had the pleasure of working with its local jail versus prison there are BIG differances. Rachel you are so right substance abuse can not really be treated in a client centered way that would offer true habbilation/rehabilitation. DSAT is the closet it will come and depending on men or women as well as setting impacts it deliverance. MCC has both men and women both programs appear well run. In this case the person who has really no prior is more likely to harden and develop mental health issues. Prison are not designed to therapeuticaly treat people who more and more have both substance abuse and mental health. It will cost us more over this persons life then if he was in a sober rehab housing unit with therapy. Very few people wake up and say oh i'm so glad i took a life.....the one's that do make a case for prisons.Look at recidivism rates prior to prison if you took those on probation and tracked them that are low risk offenders..look what the system did to them over time. Recently Scott Poirier was in the paper look what has happened in his trial..he surely wont benefit from incarceration.

I'm Kevin's, wife. I have been with him for five and a half years and I will say he did have poor judgement making the choice of driving under the influence that night. He and I BOTH admit to this. Kevin & I also both agree that it's horrible that there was a loss of life.

Some people through this ordeal have been absolutely RUDE & HURTFUL saying that Kevin deserved a more harsh sentencing, he was a murderer/killer etc & should rot in jail. We were harassed & had to move out of our home. There is always more than one side of the story. The media only tells what will help their ratings. In this situation they said the "drunk driver" rear ended the motorcyclist killing him. That was so very wrong. My husband was making a turn and the victim hit my husband in the passenger side door. There also was evidence that was tampered with & destroyed at the hospital. The victim, Norman Audie was under the influence of marijuana and the bag of marijuana & pipe was discarded at the hospital while the mother, a former police officers wife was aware of this. So Mr Audie being under the influence of marijuana and stated by an out of state witness "driving erratically" with NO helmet also had poor judgement that evening.

I agree with the OUI charges that my husband received, he broke the law. No denying this, he didn't try denying it. HOWEVER, the "manslaughter" part of the sentence I feel is a little too much. I feel that BOTH Atkins & Audie BOTH had part in poor judgement choices that evening and for those who may feel that Kevin didn't receive enough punishment and should have had more jail time you are wrong.

I agree with Rachel & Tim jail does not help with drug/alcohol issues. However Kevin was out of jail for a year and a half awaiting sentencing and has NOT used any substance since the night of the accident nor has he had any temptation for them. He spent his time in jail, only to get out with the horrible memories & guilt not of killing Audie, because he didn't kill Audie, he has the guilt of the poor decision driving and being involved in Audie's death.

Since because of his conviction of "manslaughter" places of employment wont even look at him. He will struggle the rest of his life trying to find employment.

Like I said we totally agree with the OUI part of this sentence, but being a wife of someone who made a poor decision I think there should be some help to the defendant when it comes to trying to enter society after a conviction. Kevin is NOT a killer/murderer/bad person. He made that bad decision that night that he lives with daily. People make mistakes every day, I'm betting about 98% of us has gone out to dinner and had a couple of drinks and drove home. It could have happened to anyone of us......I'm concerned for those people who struggle day after day to make a living after one mistake. (It's not like Kevin planned & followed the plan to murder somebody) He was involved in an ACCIDENT that both parties had poor judgement......Kevin is a hard worker and can't work to make a living.

Just food for thought about things that are kept from the community and things that you don't hear about.

To the Audie Family, there are no words that one can say to bring Norman back. I have your sorrow in my thoughts & hope that the pain you held over time has become a little easier to deal with. We do understand that Kevin made the poor judgement call but I hope that you also see that Norman too "could" have made better judgement that night. I believe the words from Tim Zerillo definitely fit this situation as "There are no winners in this case."

Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts & concerns.

Well said Cheryl. I am glad to hear that Kevin is doing well. Good people can make mistakes. Kevin has paid for those mistakes and will continue to pay for them. Some people automatically assume that very long jail sentences should result in these types of cases. That approach doesn't fairly individualize the facts of the case or the life of the Defendant. Best wishes for a happy 2010.

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