What Would be a Fair Trial?

“We’d like to express our condolences to all the victims of this terrible accident — and that’s what it was, it was a terrible accident,” Longwith said outside court.

Longwith is Randall T. Longwith, the defense attorney for Andrew Gallo of San Gabriel, California.

Here’s the background of the statement by attorney Longwith: Early on the morning of April 9, 2009, Nick Adenhart, Henry Pearson, and Jon Wilhite were riding in the car with Courtney Stewart when they were broadsided by a vehicle driven by Andrew Gallo, which allegedly ran a red light. Stewart, Pearson and Adenhart were killed, and Wilhite is hospitalized in serious condition. Gallo fled from the scene of the wreck on foot before eventually being apprehended by police.

Here are some important (to me) details: The reports are that Gallo’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit. He had previously pled guilty to drunken driving in 2006, but didn’t finish the conditions of his sentencing in that case. Additionally, he was still on probation from his 2006 case at the time of this wreck. He was also driving on a suspended license. In 2007 Gallo was convicted of marijuana possession, which may or may not have any bearing on this particular incident.

Here’s my question: Was this just an accident, “a terrible accident,” as attorney Longwith suggests? I have not read any reports suggesting that Gallo intended to kill, or even harm anyone when he got behind the wheel of his mini-van. And since he apparently had no intention of harming anyone, does that make this simply a “terrible accident?”

I think this case would have been a good one for the Old Testament cities of refuge (Joshua 20), which were set up to be a “safe haven” for those who had accidentally killed someone else. By “safe haven” I mean a place where they can get a fair trial, and not just receive the wrath of their victim’s family.

If I were among the elders in a city of refuge and Mr. Gallo stumbled into town asking for asylum, here’s what I would rule: Guilty. Of course, that verdict assumes the facts are similar to what has been reported in the press.

I’m not sure why the defense attorney believes his client can’t get a fair trial in Orange County. Perhaps it’s because he killed a promising young professional baseball player from the local team. However, given what I have seen regarding the “facts,” what would the attorney actually argue to mitigate the actions of his client?

Honestly, IF 1) Gallo was driving with a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit, and 2) he ran a red light and broadsided at least one other vehicle, and 3) he killed three people, and 4) he was driving on a suspended license from a previous drunk driving conviction, where does one go with that?

It may have been an “accident,” as in “he didn’t intend to kill anyone.” But driving while intoxicated (particularly THREE times the legal limit) pretty much removes the “it was a terrible accident” plea. AND that there was a previous drunk driving conviction removes any hesitation about removing the “it was an accident” excuse. Period.

If I’m the judge or on the jury and the facts are as have been reported, here’s my verdict: GUILTY!

After that, here’s the question: What should the sentence be? Answer: The max! Apparently, the most he can get is 55 years. But is the death penalty justified in a case like this?

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