Sentencing in Drunk Driving Case
None of us has any doubts that driving while under the influence of alcohol is a shamefully irresponsible act; causing the death of an innocent human being multiplies that act tenfold. But reading the account (May 30) of Evan Haller’s sentencing hearing in a Van Nuys court was deeply disturbing, particularly Judge Albracht’s remarks delivered from the bench that “an offense like this cries out for the vengeance.”
Forgive me if I am wrong, but I was under the impression that sentencing under our judicial system was not for the sake of avenging a criminal act but instead to impose punishment to fit the crime and, hopefully, rehabilitation. If sentencing in our courts is to be a machinery for vengeance, particularly to satisfy the friends and families of victims, then, I don’t see why Albracht could not have simply dismissed the court, gone outside and hanged Haller from the nearest tree.
Is justice served by having families of victims, in open court, give unlimited vent to their emotions against defendants in the hopes of swaying a judge to impose a maximum sentence? I do not question the sentence given to Evan Haller, but I only hope that in the end Judge Albracht used the rule of law in imposing it, not vengeance. If vengeance was Judge Albracht’s intent then what was used was not law in the sentencing of Evan Haller but something approaching the “court” of Judge Roy Bean.
STEPHEN C. JORDAN