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Thanks to the investigating officers for not sweeping THIS one under the rug.

Now if we only would have the fortitude to stop these dangerous drivers at the very first indication of their homocidal behavior BEFORE they kill someone.

Let's hope she doesn't get the leniency that former governors of Virginia get.

Part of me wishes she had only been texting, then perhaps we could treat using a phone while driving as the serious crime it is.

@Kolo
I suspect that without the DUI charges Bishop Cook would likely see little if any jail time.

By the way - I'm not in favor a severe penalty in this case. It's just too late.

It doesn't have to be 10 years, but some jail time needs to be done; not so much to punish her, and not in any way to make up for Palermo's death, but so that others start thinking about what they're doing when they get behind the wheel. If she gets a suspended sentence, the message just continues to be that it's okay to kill people with cars while drunk.

Just my opinion, of course.

These facts are about as bad as it gets. If they can't mete out jail time for this, then they can't for anything that happens to a cyclist.

@Crickey
I agree. And I expect a jail sentence.

@jeffb
I don't understand how it's too late. It's always too late to stop a crime. That doesn't stop the courts from punishing the offender.

I just checked. Sentencing guidelines in MD for "Negligent homicide by motor
vehicle or vessel while under the influence of alcohol", has maximum sentence of 5 years. DUI, second offense, up to 2 years. Driver failing
to remain at scene of accident that results in death of another person - up to 5 years.

Drunk at 2:30 in the afternoon? Was she on her way home from a service where she gave communion and "had" to drink all the unconsumed wine.

Obviously not an excuse, but I wonder if this might make her employer liable? They have deep pockets.

The new Jake's Law in MD allows for 5 years/$5000 for a serious injury or death caused by a driver who is using a handheld phone (IMO, should be any use of a phone).

@Michael Roy
IMO the time to apply a "severe" penalty would have been in 2010 - when her first DUI was dismissed.

Then you have had mildly inconvenienced former operator of a motor vehicle and a still vey much alive Thomas Palermo.

What do we have now? A tragic death and a ruined live. I , for one, don't believe putting Ms Cook in jail now has any benefit to society nor deterrent effect on other drunk drivers.

The best way to stop drunk drivers from killing people is to simply stop all drunk driving. To do that we have to stop coddling "first time offenders" by allowing easy dismissal or reduction of charges.

My proposal is if you drink and drive (and get caught) you lose your license. If you drive without a license then you lose the car AND go to jail.

I am no big fan of retributive justice, but this woman has shown manifold evidence of recklessness and irresponsibility, in addition to ethanol addiction. I don't know much about her, but, generally, when you see that kind of behavior in an otherwise very high functioning individual you think personality disorder, possibly bordering on sociopath/psychopath. The prognosis for rehabilitation, or insight leading to change, in such an individual is essentially nil, but they do respond to punishment in a primitive way. Most importantly, she should never drive again and should compensate the Palermo family with everything she has, above reasonable subsistence, for the rest of her life.

Oddly, I find myself arguing for the harsher penalty, here. I'm not generally an advocate of incarceration, but this strikes me as the kind of thing that minimum security prisons were created for: a year or two of jail would clearly communicate that those who knowingly *and* *repeatedly* drink and drive (and text, which somehow takes this to another level...) will be punished as criminals. Surely that would have some deterrent effect (and surely not incarcerating here would similarly send a message what would have an effect as well). And it might not be bad for Ms. Cook, who clearly needs to deal with addiction issues.

That being said, JeffB is probably right about one thing: the most effective way to have avoided this to begin with would have been to revoke her license (5 years, 10 years? life?).

Qunizy Fraser, the driver who struck and killed Stanton Miller, got 8 years for a very similar situation. He too was a repeat DUI offender who was intoxicated at the time. He too left the scene (or at least tried to). Cook may get some credit for returning on her own, but then that should be negated by the texting IMO. But if she gets a lighter sentence than him (he got 8 years) I suspect it will have more to do with her job (and possibly her race) than any sense that she was more law abiding.

I'll agree that DUIs should result in a very long loss of one's license, if for no other reason than I'm tired of seeing people killed by repeat offenders.

I'm for jail time. I'm not talking about a life sentence or anything, but I see her drunk driving + texting as grossly negligent manslaughter, and in any other case outside of a car you'd definitely get jail time, so I think that should be the same for her. Also, she should never EVER be allowed behind the wheel of a car again.

8 offenses, wow. I think there have to be 4 offenses before the prosecutor will stop blaming the cyclist and 6 before they'll seek more than a traffic ticket.

IIRC Quinzy Fraser had two previous convictions, and the most serious punishment was a weekend in jail. Cook blew 0.27 and got probation and a $300 fine. Neither lost their licenses or recieved suspensions. Both were also somewhat "entitled:" Fraser was a football star, and Cook a Bishop.

If we had taken away their licenses for 3-6 months the first time, perhaps two cyclists would be alive and two people would not be in jail or facing jail.

It's incredibly sad his wife and children will live without him because the Bishop couldn't control her desire for alcohol. She's a repeat offender who puts her selfish needs above those in the community. It makes us all skeptical of the clergy, and whether they truly love and care for others. It appears she had more than 6 drinks, which is horrible in every respect.

The text messaging only makes the story more tragic. It's been proven humans can't multi-task, as the brain is truly a single tasking operating system.

I sincerely hope the case has a great prosecutor who isn'y interested in settling. Let the jury decide her fate.

The penalty for texting while driving in MD is a $40 to $100 fine. Read that again. $40 to $100!! Studies have shown that just talking on a phone while driving is similar to DUI. But if you are caught texting in Maryland, in other words, failing to give fill attention to complete control of 1-2 ton killing machine, you will be fined $40. Fined the equivalent of working 5 hours at minimum wage. The cost of filling a gas tank in a large SUV.

The fine for throwing an empty Big Mac wrapper out of your car in MD is $1500.

The typical fine for driving with expired plates in MD is $260.

We let Drunk Driving get to the point where it kills thousands of people a year, and we still hesitate to mandate serious consequences for the first violation. 40 years from now, will we look back and wonder why we never took cell phone use seriously?

I think you make good points, but I might characterize this differently. I suspect she is an alcoholic, that's she's sick; and she hasn't sought out or received the help that she needs. The real problem is that after having been caught driving so recklessly, she was allowed to keep driving.

"About one-third of the drunk driving problem – arrests, crashes, deaths, and injuries – comes from repeat offenders. At any given point we potentially share the roads with 2 million people with three or more drunk driving offenses."

re:WC.

Yes, get back to the whole idea of driving as a privilege. Removing the right to drive is less about punishment, and more about safety.

Alcoholism is a legitimate clinical condition with clear behavioral and genetic predisposing factors, but I think there's a risk of missing other factors, when using a diagnosis to explain egregious behavior in cases such as this.

Ms. Cook is not a person of limited intelligence, insight, or resources. When sober, she must have understood the implications of her behavior. Yet she persisted in it and, we presume, did not seek treatment or otherwise remove the means of killing someone when she was intoxicated. Yes, alcoholics are masters of rationalization and excuse, but so are habitual thieves and bullies. We tend to be far less interested in potentially valid biological explanations for their behavior, when offered in their defense.

Treatment may be the first priority for individuals, such as Ms. Cook--anyone who can walk around and text with .22 on board will require careful detox, but I think serious punishment is also appropriate for her implicit recklessness and destructive lack of concern for others.

I don't disagree. We should have done more when she was caught the first time, but she could have decided to quit drinking or quit driving - or at least quit driving after drinking - on her own. She didn't. And now she has to pay the price. Right now the price of that is prison. Perhaps some day we'll have a better criminal justice system more oriented toward rehabilitation, but this is what we have now and she knew that.

Smedley, there are three issues:
punishment, treatment, safety.

Whatever we decide regarding punishment and treatment, we can readily decide to pull her license as a matter of safety. The state is too slow to pull the license, seeing it as punishment and ignoring the safety element.

Even at this point I don't favor prison. I reserve confinement for people who are a continuing danger to others.

The real problem is we still have a Restaurant/Bar/Hospitality industry that maintains that one can drink - to a certain point - and still drive.

But 1 or 2 drinks can easily become 3 or more as our judgment becomes clouded. If alcohol didn't have that effect frat boys wouldn't serve it to Freshman girls.

Driving experts will tell you that there is no amount of alcohol that can be consumed and still allow a person to drive unaffected.

So i'm changing my mind. I'm no longer for ending drunken driving. Lets end ALL drinking and driving. No more allowance for a couple of drinks. No more 0.08 blood alcohol. Lets make it ZERO.

My proposal is:
1) No drinking and driving. We'll set BAC to 0.03 which, I'm guessing, allows some tolerance for certain mouthwashes and such.

This should send a very clear message about what is and isn't appropriate behavior before driving.

2) Change the penalties for DUI. Right now they sound stiff but, in practice, many people get much reduced penalties and are allowed to continue driving.

I propose that we first remove the ability of judges to reduce sentences. There will be a mandated penalty that can not be escaped. This will remove the corruption from the legal system.

First time DUI will no longer be a conviction. No jail time or criminal penalties. Driving is a privilege so we will simply remove that privilege. Not suspend - REMOVE permanently.

3) Reinstatement. After a period of time a person can apply to have their license reinstated. I suggest a minimum of 6 months to a year.

Reinstatement is not automatic. A driver will be reinstated only if they can show they are no longer USING alcohol or drugs. I believe a hair follicle test can detect use of alcohol going back several months.

So possibly the penalty could be 6 months license lost. Then apply for reinstatement and submit to periodic drug testing for another 6 months.

So the quickest a first time DUI could recover the legal ability to drive would be 1 year. Absolutely no exceptions.

4) Driving without a license after a DUI. This becomes the criminal penalty. Here 30 days in jail is automatic. Also the vehicle you are operating is forfeited. Not your vehicle? Not our problem.

No reinstatement will ever be granted.

5) Subsequent DUI after reinstatement. Same as above.

I believe the above rules will send a clear message to everybody. Drink as much as you want but don't drive.

It also doesn't criminalize first time offenders - just gives them time to reflect and figure out which is more important to them - drinking or driving.

Oh, hell yes! The state should have pulled her license on the first go.

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