So This is Justice?
January 22, 2004 3:35 PM   Subscribe

Janklow Gets 100 Days for Manslaughter
A career of willful and flagrant disregard for traffic laws and other people's safety that ended in the death of a motorcyclist.
Must be nice to be pals with the president. Although I'm sure that had nothing to do with his slap-on-the-wrist sentence. I was just saying that it must be nice to be pals with the president.
posted by fenriq (41 comments total)

 
Actually, being a pedestrian advocate myself, this is not an unusual sentence for any motorist that accidentally kills someone. The main reason for longer sentences are usually for drunk drivers.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 3:40 PM on January 22, 2004


Although my initial reaction is similar to yours, fenriq, I do wonder how this compares to sentences given to others in South Dakota for the same offense. At least in my eyes, the penalties for vehicular manslughter are generally far too low, in any case.
posted by billsaysthis at 3:41 PM on January 22, 2004


It seems like a standard sentence for these types of things, and they're always unfair when you consider that someone died.

That said, going 71 in a 55 area isn't that big of a deal. There's no mention of him being drunk so there doesn't seem to be a compelling reason to lock him up and throw away the key.
posted by mathowie at 3:55 PM on January 22, 2004


They gave him vehicular manslaughter when he admitted to running the stop sign, admitted to lying about swerving to avoid another car and having low blood sugar.

And going 71 when he should have been at a dead stop is a pretty large disparity.

Also, he's been let off countless times because he happened to be the governor and congressman.

I think he should have gotten at least a year in jail and deserved a full term 10 year prison term. But then, I'm a biker myself and have been on the wrong side of a car/motorcycle collision.
posted by fenriq at 3:56 PM on January 22, 2004


Especially with a history of negligence on Janklow's part.

As a motorcyclist, I'm glad he got *some* sentance. I'm also happy about the high-profile of this case... I'm hoping that it'll make people pay attention to those of us that "risk our lives riding those darn-blanged donorcycle contraptions." The biggest risk to the average motorcyclist isn't rain or road debris, it isn't riding too fast and losing it in a turn, it isn't stunting (heck, better than 80% of the bikes sold each year in the US aren't capable of popping a wheelie...) ... It's motorists just plain ol' not LOOKING and not seeing us. That leads to a defensive 'them against us' mentality, and a rather violent attitude towards motorists (aka 'cagers') that are doing everything BUT piloting their two ton chunks of metal down the freeway.

Janklow still has to face the civil trial, in which he'll probably get his ass handed to him. AND he resigned from the senate. His name's been dragged through the mud.

I still wish that Janklow would've gotten a longer sentence for taking someone's life through a simple inability to care than a friend's brother did for robbing a bank. No one was harmed in the bank robbery (money was recovered and everything); the friend's brother is in for three years. Janklow killed someone, and he's in for a hundred days plus some community service. What kind of message does this send about our society?
posted by SpecialK at 3:58 PM on January 22, 2004


Actually this is quite a satisfying sentence when you consider how much more important the life of Bill Janklow was than the life of the person he murdered. Excuse me, slaughtered. A hundred days may not sound like much, but consider that these are Congressman days, and I'm sure you'll see why the family of the slaughtered is wholly satisfied by the infallibility of our justice system, and indeed the very concept of justice in our arbitrary world. If anything, I'd the court was a bit liberal in even attempting to apply normal criminal law to someone who is, by the very nature of his position, above those petty statutes that bind the proletariat.
posted by Hildago at 4:15 PM on January 22, 2004


"It's motorists just plain ol' not LOOKING and not seeing us."

I think some kind of Metafilter error cut off half your sentence. It should have read: It's motorists just plain ol' not LOOKING and not seeing us, as we weave in and out of traffic at twice the legal speed limit.

But, yes, he should have been locked up for the rest of eternity, because this would have brought the motorcyclist back from the dead and ended traffic accidents for all time... Or maybe he should be left to live the rest of his life knowing that his actions killed a man. Isn't that punishment enough, or do you still want that 0.45 kg of flesh?
posted by MarkC at 4:29 PM on January 22, 2004


It is interesting to note that just yesterday, here in Tallahassee, a federal judge had to sentence a young Afican American crack merchant to life imprisonment, such being the Congressionally mandated sentence for selling 50 grams or more of crack cocaine.

Janklow will only have to serve 30 days before being eligible for supervised release time. Sure am glad Bill won't be too inconvenienced for killing an innocent motorcyclist.

Hildago--Mmmn, "Congressman days." Wait til Tom DeLay hears about them . . . .Many a true word was said in a sardonic joke.
posted by rdone at 4:38 PM on January 22, 2004


He hit a donorcycle rider. I fault the victim more than the idiot speeder.
posted by paleocon at 4:39 PM on January 22, 2004


"But if someone told me I was going to jail for two days for speeding, my driving habits would change," then-Gov. Janklow said in a State of the State speech in 1999. "I can pay the ticket, but I don't want to go to jail." more reading...
posted by fatbaq at 4:46 PM on January 22, 2004


MarkC and Paleocon, you're blaming the victim? Nice compassion. Surely its not a man with a well documented history of moving vehicle violations who could be at fault? No way, that'd be, like, too easy.

What states do you live in so I can be sure to stay the hell away from any place where people blame victims for the crimes of others?

Not all bikers ride dangerously. As for weaving in and out of traffic at twice the speed limit, anyone with a history of doing it will kill themself eventually. And I'm sure there was lots of traffic at the rural intersection where Janklow didn't even slow down for a stop sign before t-boning the guy and killing him on impact.

Yeah, all the biker's fault.
posted by fenriq at 4:51 PM on January 22, 2004


MarkC -
I'll take my pound of flesh and raise you two.

Not all motorcyclists ride like that. In fact, those are the ones you remember most because they're the ones you *see*. Yes, motorcyclists tend to change lanes a lot, we tend to travel a few miles per hour faster than traffic (when we can and when it's legal for us to), and we tend to lane-split in states where it's legal. Why? Because motorists see you when you're moving in ways that they don't expect. I change lanes a lot (which is reccomended in the safety school classes that I take at least once, but usually three times per year). Of course, there are also the urban 'squid' (Short for "Squished Kid" or "Squished Idiot") variety of motorcyclists ... the posers and "Jackass" imitators of the sportbike world. They do weird stuff and end up dead or seriously injured more often than not.
The vast majority of motorcyclists ride very safely, do *not* have death wishes, and stay off the freeways whenever possible. We wear full-body armored leather suits, full-face helmets that are tested to pretty tight standards, and spend hours in classrooms or parking lot/track training each year to learn how to be better riders. The percentage of motorcyclists who have some sort of formal training is a lot higher than the percentage of drivers who have formal training, and the training and testing standards are much higher for motorcycles than they are for cars. We're also a lot more focused and we have a lot fewer distractions when riding a motorcycle than most people do while operating a car with an automatic transmission.

No, Janklow shouldn't be locked up for all eternity. Stop pushing rediculous logical fallacies. However, if you look at minimum sentencing guidelines -- "Let's see, stealing $10,000 gets you put in jail for three years. However, killing someone with a two ton weapon gets you 100 days and community service!" ... which crime is worse? And no, I don't buy that he'll geniuinely feel remorse about killing the motorcyclist. Look at his defense: "My blood sugar was low, your honor!"

Please, don't talk out of your ass about something that you know nothing about. And don't assume your philosophical standards automatically apply to others.

On preview: What fenriq said, too.
posted by SpecialK at 4:56 PM on January 22, 2004


As young children are so fond of saying when they notice what seems to them an inequitable thing in life: "It isn't fair."
posted by Postroad at 5:04 PM on January 22, 2004


In this case the guy blew through a stop sign. The fact the person he hit was on a bike is almost immaterial to me. It could have just as easily be a pedestrian, cyclist, etc that happened to be rightfully crossing the intersection.

He screwed up but he didn't mean to kill anyone. It was a horrible but unintentional act at least in the eyes of the court. I can't see dropping someone in prison for life because of a unintentional act.

My opinion on motorcycles and cars:
I like motorcycles. They're fun, and riding them is definitely a known risk. Getting on a motorcycle sees risks jump substantially.

I think because the risks are so known I have less issue with drivers facing stiff penalties in accidents. I know I'm going to be harder to see on a bike. I know I'm substantially more fragile on a bike. In almost any given road scenario I'm worse off on a bike than in a car. Etc.

I choose these risks because I like the upside, so it feels a bit wrong for me to say that Joe Driver should have a larger penalty for hitting me than a car.
Drivers are going to not look at their blindspots. Drivers are going to miss stop signs. Being on a bike ups their and my consequences of mistake, but of the two of us, it was my choice to up that risk.
posted by rudyfink at 5:21 PM on January 22, 2004


A South Dakota prosecutor who was on a local radio station here in frigid Minneapolis claimed that the sentence was commensurate with those sentences received by other perps in similar cases. But nice job editorializing in the FPP...
posted by trharlan at 5:23 PM on January 22, 2004


I don't blame the victim in this case, obviously. I was pointing out that there are a lot of irresponsible, dangerous bike riders out there. We could argue about the kinds of people who are attracted to riding motorcycles, but now I digress...

My point is, that custodial sentences, in cases like this, achieve nothing. I know you Americans have this overwhelming desire for revenge, but you need to realise that locking the guy up for several years won't do nowt.

Take his license away. Make him face the victim's widow. Give him psychiatric help and teach him how to be a human being. But locking this guy up is pointless.
posted by MarkC at 5:28 PM on January 22, 2004


Although my initial reaction is similar to yours, fenriq, I do wonder how this compares to sentences given to others in South Dakota for the same offense.

From Daily Kos:
During the American Indian Movement activism of the 1970s [full disclosure: in which I participated], Janklow once noted to reporters: “The only way to deal with the Indian problem in America is to put a gun in the AIM leaders' heads and pull the trigger."

None of that has anything to do with the current case, of course. But the attitude expressed by Janklow then provides a context now for cases not so different from his.

The cases of Mark Appel and Melanie Seaboy, for instance.

In 1999, 17-year-old Appel, a white, ran over and killed 21-year-old Justin Redday, a Lakota Indian, on a deserted stretch of road in Roberts County. Appel, said Redday was lying in the road and that he didn’t swerve because “it is illegal to cross the white line, or if it is a solid yellow line, or even if it wasn’t, it is illegal to swerve." Appel was legally drunk when the accident occurred. He was indicted by a grand jury for vehicular homicide, but prosecutors later reduced the charge to driving while drunk. He didn't serve any jail or prison time.

Redday’s mother told a South Dakota newspaper, “If my son had been driving, rather than the victim, he’d be serving 20 years.” Sound like hyberbole? It’s not.

In 1998, 18-year-old Melanie Seaboy, a Lakota, drove her car into a Jeep Cherokee driven by a non-Indian, killing him instantly. Seaboy was legally drunk and pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and second-degree manslaughter. She was sentenced to 14 years, one year short of the maximum, and three times the average sentence for such an offense.

Bill Janklow is a towering public figure in his state, and 64 years old, so it is no surprise that he got off with this wrist-slap. I suspect it will be a warm January in Rapid City before South Dakotans of lesser status can count on similar mercy.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:31 PM on January 22, 2004


So if he had the exact same accident, but had alcohol in his system, he should be shot?

There are thousands of accidents each day by sober people, yet if one of those same accidents happens while booze is around, the booze becomes the cause and blind reason for massive punishment?

So much for rational cause/effect based justice.
posted by HTuttle at 5:36 PM on January 22, 2004


MarkC: I was pointing out that there are a lot of irresponsible, dangerous bike riders out there.

You choose an inflammatory way to "point this out" to us and no wonder the bikers on MeFi will get annoyed.
posted by gen at 5:39 PM on January 22, 2004


Newsfilter?
posted by dazed_one at 5:52 PM on January 22, 2004


Indeed I also think this is an appaling sentence, not because he's a politician , but because of his consistent careless behavior.

I mean..accidental overspeeding isn't a big deal as long as nobody gets hurt, but when somebody is hurt or killed by a serial overspeeder (and he admits to be one and there is ample documented proof he is) the punishment should be harsh , as it is evident that he didn't learn the lesson and was given MANY a chance to learn it ,yet he killed one person.

And one also could notice that
After he completes his jail term, he will be on probation for three years, during which he will not be allowed to drive

..which suggests that he's going to be allowed to drive again after the probation ! No Sir , I would have your licence permanently denied as you are a clearly a reckless driver that had many a chance to learn from mistakes.
posted by elpapacito at 6:17 PM on January 22, 2004


there are a lot of irresponsible, dangerous bike riders out there

This poor bastard was killed because some dickhead motorist ran a stop sign, and you're taking the opportunity to talk a bunch of shit about all the dangerous bike riders out there?

First of all, to the extent that there are irresponsible, dangerous bike riders out there, they are mostly only dangerous to themselves. I have never heard of any fatalities to motorists being caused by motorcyclists.

Secondly, as a biker with more than 15 years of road experience, I will venture that I know and have ridden with one hell of a lot more bikers than you have ever even seen on the road, and it would not be hyperbole to state that the vast majority of us are responsible, skilled and courteous riders, even if those qualities are cultivated by necessity. Immature thrill seekers on crotch rockets are a tiny minority who self select out of riding in very short order.
posted by psmealey at 6:29 PM on January 22, 2004


How did Janklow's sentence compare to Teddy Kennedy's?
posted by Durwood at 6:35 PM on January 22, 2004


I know you Americans have this overwhelming desire for revenge, but you need to realise that locking the guy up for several years won't do nowt.

Take his license away. Make him face the victim's widow. Give him psychiatric help and teach him how to be a human being. But locking this guy up is pointless.


I agree that his license should be taken away, and counseling too, but only in addition to being incarcerated. Revoking licenses and dealing with the problem psychiatrically are perfect solutions after the fact, but then after the fact someone is already dead. I'd still like some kind of deterrent, please.
posted by Hildago at 7:23 PM on January 22, 2004


Ha! trharlan listens to KFAN! Interesting...

All I want to know is, did he resign? Cause he said he was going to, but with that sentence, he could probably just remain in office.
A - He got a light sentence.
B - After he serves whatever he serves, the crime is ERASED from his record. Why does that make sense?!
posted by graventy at 7:26 PM on January 22, 2004


Yes, he did resign on Tuesday.
posted by SpecialK at 8:42 PM on January 22, 2004


i'm not going to reiterate the things that the other motorcyclists on here said. just chalk me up as another person feeling that Janklow got off easy.

I will take this space to encourage all of you that ride to get involved in your local political motorcyclists groups. In TX we have the TMRA II (Texas Motorcyclists Rights Association). ABATE is a good organization, and there is a local Confederation of Clubs in most areas. The American Motorcyclist Assoc is an obvious choice. By banding together we can effect more of an influence than we can separately.
posted by jbelshaw at 8:50 PM on January 22, 2004


But I still don't understand what motorcyclists have to do with this. His sentence wasn't reduced because he killed a motorcyclist, was it?
posted by Hildago at 8:57 PM on January 22, 2004


This seems to be one of those extremely rare cases when British penalities are higher than US ones. He would have probably received several years for that in the UK. Hell, you can get fined and penalized for going 34 mph in a 30 zone these days, or parking more than 4 inches from the curb ;-)
posted by wackybrit at 9:08 PM on January 22, 2004


Plus ca Change......Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, anyone ?
posted by troutfishing at 5:49 AM on January 23, 2004


Accedents happen... to everybody.

You can't just stop the engine of the world... It's a lottery of sorts. Some people hit it, most never do... but it's not (usually) free will, even when the driver is drunk.

Flame me all you want, but if you ever killed someone in a car ACCIDENT, would you be begging to go to pound-me-in-the-ass-prison?
posted by LoopSouth at 6:28 AM on January 23, 2004


Cut the guy some slack.
After all it's only his second homicide! (reference baby-sitter who met her youthful death when she decided to testify about Janklow's forcible statutory rape)
Geez, you'd think he sold drugs or something what with everyone wanting him to server hard time! I mean, after all, he's only a murderer!
/sarcasm
posted by nofundy at 6:30 AM on January 23, 2004


I have never heard of any fatalities to motorists being caused by motorcyclists.

A couple of guys I knew in high school were killed by a motorcycle that T-boned their Renault Encore at high speed at night. The motorcyclist was riding without his lights, so it was clearly his fault.

That said, I find it ludicrous to use this incident to blame motorcyclists. I am a motorcyclist myself due to the fact that I can't afford a car.

This guy made several choices. He knew his blood sugar was low. He chose to drive anyway. He chose to run a stop sign. Presumably he's smart enough to have known that these actions could end up resulting in someone else's death, yet he did it anyway. You can go around shooting a gun in random directions, and you might not hit anyone at all, but then again you might. Oops, had an ACCIDENT there, sorry.
posted by Poagao at 8:51 AM on January 23, 2004



Flame me all you want, but if you ever killed someone in a car ACCIDENT, would you be begging to go to pound-me-in-the-ass-prison?


I'm not going to flame you, I'm just going to do a spit take.

[spit take]

That is your criteria for punishment? Whether you would beg to receive that punishment if you were guilty? How many people have ever begged to go to prison? Four?

And mind you, this wasn't a wholly accidental crime. It is probably true that Janklow didn't particularly want to hit anybody, but he did make certain decisions which directly brought about the accident. That's why it's called manslaughter. He has to face the punishment for those decisions somehow. Apparently it's only three and a half months in jail, but still.
posted by Hildago at 9:55 AM on January 23, 2004


Hey, MarkC, as a husband who's wife was run over by a truck six months ago, crippled for life and nearly killed by a guy who did not look to see if he could proceed through his stop sign, fuck you.

Just sayin', is all.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:48 AM on January 23, 2004


I still wish that Janklow would've gotten a longer sentence for taking someone's life through a simple inability to care than a friend's brother did for robbing a bank. No one was harmed in the bank robbery (money was recovered and everything); the friend's brother is in for three years. Janklow killed someone, and he's in for a hundred days plus some community service. What kind of message does this send about our society?


That mistakes are more forgiveable then malicious acts?
posted by delmoi at 3:46 PM on January 23, 2004


But Janklow is malicious. The man has a ton of traffic violations: it is obvious he chooses to drive recklessly and to endanger others.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:27 AM on January 24, 2004


Hey, MarkC, as a husband who's wife was run over by a truck six months ago, crippled for life and nearly killed by a guy who did not look to see if he could proceed through his stop sign, fuck you.

What happened to your wife, and to the victim in the Janklow case, is reprehensible. But the question is still valid. What's the point of locking him up for 10 years? He's obviously not getting his driver's license back. He won't ever kill anyone again, and he's 64 years old. I don't have much sympathy for Janklow, but if I was a SD resident my tax dollars could do much better things than keeping him locked up.
posted by PrinceValium at 11:58 AM on January 24, 2004


Keeping him locked up will ensure that he -- a man who has repeatedly proven to us that he has no consideration for the law -- will not drive unlicensed. I am certain that he will continue to drive if he is not jailed.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:27 PM on January 24, 2004


FFF - It makes me sad to read that. I hope your wife is doing OK.
posted by troutfishing at 7:15 AM on January 25, 2004


Actually, she's doing remarkably well. Her shoulder (fractured and dislocated, into three parts) has healed well and although the bone fragments didn't perfectly align, she seems to have nearly all motion back in it. Her elbow (basically rebuilt from scratch, a lot of missing bone and some whonking great amount of titanium) is restored to about 90% functionality, but remains weak and very painful. The insurance company has been incredible, with support for several forms of therapy and a graduated return-to-work.

I'm still fairly angry with it all, though. It was so unnecessary.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:24 AM on January 25, 2004


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