---Alice Abrams

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

When is a Death an Accident? UPDATE

UPDATE: As Nouveaublogger (see comments) predicted, the D.A.'s office reduced the charges to child endangerment for both women. That makes the most sense but in this town, sense doesn't always count. I am totally pro law and order. It's just that our D.A. has been fighting with our local newspaper for years and was featured in a national program based on a book called, "Cruel Justice." The problem is no one will run against him! (In subsequent reports, the mother had the baby strapped into the lap belt with her which is what caused the crushing injuries to her chest.)
A tragedy occurred here a couple of weeks ago. A young mother was suffering from a severe asthma attack and she and mother didn't dare take the time to wait for an ambulance to arrive, so they grabbed the mother's newborn baby girl and took off in the family car for a quick drive to the hospital.

The baby's grandmother was in the county's downtown jail Tuesday as a suspect in the death of her 4-month-old granddaughter. The child's mother is suspected of felony child endangerment in her daughter's death February 8 by car accident.

"It's punishment enough we lost the baby and now they've taken my mom and it's like I've lost my whole family," the baby's aunt said. "My boys have lost their grandmother and I don't know what to do anymore. I feel numb."

Mother and grandmother were arrested Monday at their homes for a car accident that killed the baby who was not secured in a car seat as the women rushed to a hospital during the infant's mother's asthma attack, family members have said.

The grandmother was arrested on suspicion of felony vehicular manslaughter and felony child endangerment. She was scheduled to be arraigned today in Superior Court. The mother will be arraigned March 12.

The baby's aunt said that on the day of the accident she had the baby's car seat from the infant's earlier trip to the doctor for immunizations. The grandmother was insisting on a car seat for the baby but as the mother was suffering, mother and daughter finally decided to let the mom hold the baby. The grandmother turned on her hazard lights and "laid on her horn" as she drove.

Mom held the baby in the baby seat of the car as the grandmother drove them to the hospital. She turned left in front of a pickup, causing a collision. The pickup driver was unhurt. The grandmother, who was thrown against the windshield, had a hairline fracture in her hip and stitches in her face. The infant suffered blunt force trauma to her chest and died soon after the incident at the hospital.

The grandmother declined an interview request and the mom was released from custody on $20,000 bail. The attorney representing the mother said she's "holding up. This case is about a sick mom who was trying to do the right thing in an emergency," he said. The mother's sister said that she has suffered severe asthma attacks her entire life and such frantic trips to the hospital have happened before. The family figured ambulances were too slow and their own vehicles would get her to the hospital faster.

When asked why the women didn't get equal treatment in the case, a police detective said he hadn't talked to investigators about that, but he believed it's because the driver, the person in control of the vehicle, is responsible for his or her passengers.

Neighbors of the women were asked about the decision to arrest the women and the reactions were mixed. One neighbor said "I can't really see driving down the street with an infant in any body's lap," and another said the punishments seemed harsh.
Now, unless the women had been drinking or were otherwise under the influence, I think this is totally out of line.

I have never lost a child, by the grace of God, so I can only begin to imagine what this family is going through. But to formally arrest them and haul them off to jail, where they could not raise the bail money - oh, did I mention that they are not from the affluent part of town? And our D.A.'s office is notorious for some of the cases he has insisted on trying, even to the point of national embarrassment (100+ years for trumped-up child abuse, for instance!).

I am from an era when our children were untethered in the car. I remember driving with my oldest daughter standing on the seat next to me with my arm around her! The new laws do indeed protect our youngest treasures from harm, there's no doubt, but when is an "accident" an "accident?"

These two women will forever remember the night when they didn't take the time to call an ambulance that they couldn't afford; they will forever remember the night they didn't have the car seat; they will forever remember the night their precious child was lost because of carelessness. But a prison sentence? I think they will serve a lifetime self-inflicted sentence with which no brick and stone prison could compete.


Berni said...

What a tragedy. The letter of the law rather than common sense also seems to be operating here. I too remember having the kids bundled in the back of a station wagon all untethered. It is good we have better protection for our kids but sometimes we make an error in judgement in an emergency. Shouldn't mean a prison sentence. I lost my own mother to a asthma attack. These things are very scary.

Liz Hinds said...

That is such nonsense! The law has gone mad. It is supposed to be for our protection against evil not helplessness.

Amazing Gracie said...

Thank you for your responses. When the gangs are taking over the "good" neighborhoods and our children are fearful of walking home from school, I just wish the D.A. would spend the time and money focusing on those problems and leave this poor family to grieve in peace!

Heart of Rachel said...

Such a tragic and sad story. My heart goes out to that poor family. I'm sure no one meant harm and it was just an accident. It's sad that the law can sometimes be very harsh.

Here in the Philippines, there is a seatbelt law but there is no law that requires child carseats. In fact, only a small percentage actually use child carseats and we are one of them. I am aware of the reality of vehicular accidents so we bought a carseat for my son for safety reasons. He has grown accustomed to it. Many people here sit in front holding their babies. I know it must be shocking. I am shocked too and hope parents will realize the potential danger.

Constance said...

A very tragic case indeed, Gracie... It seems like the D.A. should have taken all the facts into account before just arbitrarily sticking to the letter of the law... That family will indeed live with a self-inflicted sentence of grief and pain and remorse forever...

NouveauBlogger said...

Tagic. However, I DO have to wonder why the adults didn't at least see fit to put the youngster in a lap belt. Follow this case. I bet the result will be the adults will be convicted of some lesser child endangerment...and serve no jail time. The death of the young one is the ultimate punishment and hopefully justice will recognize that.

Sad case. No one wins.

Shaz said...

That story is so sad, when in panic who thinks straight. It sounds lke this lady acted in good faith in an attempt to save her daughter.