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Perry Wacker gets a 14 year sentence.
April 5, 2001 9:41 AM   Subscribe

Perry Wacker gets a 14 year sentence. For killing attempting to smuggle 60 people into the UK, he was sentenced to 8 years in prison. For killing 58 of them he was sentenced to a further 6 years. He should have gotten the death sentence, or at least life-without-parole. Why was he charged with manslaughter instead of murder?
posted by Steven Den Beste (18 comments total)

 
I am appalled by this gross miscarriage of justice. Europeans routinely criticize the US for having the death penalty, but in some cases I think it is justified. In this case there can be no doubt, none whatever, that he knew the Chinese were in his truck.

HOW THE HELL did he get a heavier sentence for conspiracy than he did for killing FIFTY EIGHT PEOPLE? Why wasn't he tried for murder instead of manslaughter? In the US, any death which occurs during the commission of a crime is considered murder, and rightfully so.

If Europeans think the US is too draconian, I think that at least in this case the Europeans are too damned soft hearted (or soft headed). I see no reason for any mercy for this son-of-a-bitch. I mourn his victims; I hate him. I want him dead. Fifty eight people will never again enjoy the sunshine, or pet a kitten, or smell a flower, or write a letter to their loved-ones back home. Fifty-eight voices stilled forever. For destroying fifty-eight lives, he's been given a sentence comparable to what he'd have gotten for stealing a car.

If there is any justice in the universe, he'll die in a prison riot the way Dahmer did.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:41 AM on April 5, 2001


Steven, you're looking at it from an American perspective. Most Europeans subscribe to the belief that all human life is sacred and must be protected at all costs, no matter how evil they or their actions may be.

I doubt that even the worst of the scumbags from a Nuremberg trials (Hi Godwin) would get a death sentence today.
posted by aaron at 9:48 AM on April 5, 2001



agreed aaron, but 14 years? that is silly. I'm not a supporter of the death penalty, but i'm fine with life in prison.
posted by th3ph17 at 9:51 AM on April 5, 2001


We don't have the death sentence.

The difference between manslaughter and murder is, as far as I understand things, the intent to kill. So presumably there was no convincing evidence that he intended to kill the people.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:53 AM on April 5, 2001


And the gangs that arrange such human traffic walk away, just as it's drugs mules who get the rap when they get caught, not the overlords.

No way to prove "malice aforethought" beyond reasonable doubt. So manslaughter. And you could chop the driver into small pieces and feed him to the pigs, but that's not going to bring back those 58 people.
posted by holgate at 10:07 AM on April 5, 2001


The man didn't mean to kill them, thus it was manslaughter. And Europe, being civilised (for the last few decades at least) doesn't have the death penalty.

Arron sez: Most Europeans subscribe to the belief that all human life is sacred and must be protected at all costs, no matter how evil they or their actions may be.

I'd be careful how you word that. I know for a fact that they've got doctors over there who are pretty quick with a coat hanger. Not that it bothers me. The only human life sacred to me is mine....
posted by Rockames at 10:13 AM on April 5, 2001


I see no reason for any mercy for this son-of-a-bitch. I mourn his victims; I hate him. I want him dead. Fifty eight people will never again enjoy the sunshine, or pet a kitten, or smell a flower, or write a letter to their loved-ones back home.

There's certainly nothing wrong with having an emotional response to this case, but justice should be decidedly more rational than raw emotion.

As andrew says, there's no evidence of an intent to kill in this case. Indeed, it makes no sense that he'd want to kill his passengers. He absolutely should not have closed the vents. He should have realized how dangerous his actions were, but it sounds like he was more stupid and negligent than murderous. The results were disastrous, and he deserves to be punished. 14 years is not a slap on the wrist.

The fact that you want him dead should really not influence a court, especially a court in another country. And while the decline in kitten petting is regrettable, it's not the only consideration.

There is no death penalty available. Should the man therefore stay in prison for his entire life, at immense cost to the public? If he can be rehabilitated, should he not be? It does not strike me that this particular crime is one for which there is a high degree of recidivism.
posted by anapestic at 10:14 AM on April 5, 2001


Closing the vents sounds like depraved indifference and/or gross negligence to me. There's also a predicate felony involved (the smuggling of illegals) which bumps up the severity of the crime.

In the U.S. this guy would've most likely been bounced on 58 counts of murder two. Even 58 charges of manslaughter in the first degree in the U.S. would've been worth 58 years minimum.

6 years for manslaughter charges means that for each person who suffocated to death because of Wacker, he will serve less than 6 weeks in prison. If this is what passes for justice in "more civilised" Europe, I'm very glad to be a part of the legal system in the barbaric old USA.

Yes, immigrants, in civilised Europe, your death is only worth six weeks of punishment. What a great message to send to desperate people. If nothing else, maybe it will help contain the illegal immigration problem in the U.K.
posted by Dreama at 10:23 AM on April 5, 2001


> I am appalled by this gross miscarriage of justice.

Well, where the killer is European and the victims are only Asians you surely can't expect Europeans to get very upset over that. Ve didn't know vere zose trains ver goink, or who vas on zem...
posted by jfuller at 10:38 AM on April 5, 2001


Godwin! Godwin! Godwin!
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:40 AM on April 5, 2001


Note what the Justice guy said of the defendent:
"People like you create a risk of greater prejudice against those people who quite legitimately come to this country seeking refuge as asylum seekers or whatever," he said.

Does this mean that illegal aliens can come into the country and need not bother to go the usual route for immigration? Or does it mean that we ought not be prejudiced against illegal aliens who seek this or that "or whatever."
posted by Postroad at 10:59 AM on April 5, 2001


I am apalled about this for a number of reasons.

First, why was the penalty for immigration crime heavier than the penalty for killing people? That indicates a legal system completely out of control.

Second, shouldn't he have been charged, convicted and sentenced separately for each individual death? He was given a sentence of about five weeks (38 days) in prison for each death he caused. If there had been only one would they have given him a 38-day sentence? Doesn't killing a lot of people deserve a heavier penalty than just one death?

Third and perhaps most centrally: I believe prison is punishment, not reform. It has nothing to do with recidivism nor with deterrence; it has to do with justice. We don't put them behind bars in order to help them; we do it because they deserve it. To me that is sufficient.

Finally, in the US if you deliberately commit a crime and someone dies as a result, that is considered forethought and thus you will be charged with murder. And I think this is proper.

Anapestic, YES. He should be imprisoned for the rest of his life irrespective of how much it costs or whether he can be rehabilitated. The UK has no death penalty; so be it. But they have prisons and they have life sentences. If you adopt a view of "the past is past; now what can we do?" then you loose a great evil on the world, where no-one is ever held accountable for their actions. I fear such a world.

If the driver had been Chinese and the 58 dead had been blonde-haired blue-eyed Lithuanians, would the penalty have been the same? I don't express an opinion, but I sure have one.

My one remaining hope is that this will cause outrage among the population of the UK, and that as a result Parliament will change some laws and impose harsher penalties on future crimes of this kind. That is the one thing which might salvage some meaning out of this legal debacle.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:00 AM on April 5, 2001


Don't you know that in the UK to get the death penalty you have to kill the mandatory 100 people? I mean come on... 58? That's not even three figures! Tis but a scratch...
posted by fusinski at 11:05 AM on April 5, 2001


Does this mean that illegal aliens can come into the country and need not bother to go the usual route for immigration? Or does it mean that we ought not be prejudiced against illegal aliens who seek this or that "or whatever."

It means that the question of asylum seekers, particularly from the Balkans, has brought out the latent racism across much of the UK. Politicians have raced to the right, clamping down on "theiving gypsies" and "bogus asylum seekers", because it plays well. People call into radio shows with the standard "I'm not a racist but..." opening line. It's a classic tabloid mentality.

Which means, Steven, that there'll be a disturbing number of people who'll say that Perry Wacker did the country a service, by making sure there were 58 fewer people to claim their pitiful benefits, or to be confined in detention centres. In short, there's no votes to be gained from saving the lives of refugees.

Right now, there's no legal way for someone to enter the UK in order to claim asylum. It's a classic catch-22: if you're in a political flashpoint, you won't be able to get a visa, so you have to smuggle yourself across. Add to that a new law which makes ferries, lorry drivers and other carriers liable to fines if the immigration controls find stowaways... well, it doesn't make me proud.

As Jeremy Hardy said in his last Guardian column: '"Why are you people always so angry?" they ask. We should reply: "Because there is so much to be angry about...'
posted by holgate at 11:22 AM on April 5, 2001


Well, he was probably charged for manslaughter because there was no mens rea for murder. He was't actually trying to kill them, just smuggle them in. They should relax the immigration laws and there wouldn't be so many problems with so called bogus aslyum seekers.

How many people die trying to cross the Mexico border from dehydration etc?
posted by laukf at 5:03 PM on April 5, 2001


> How many people die trying to cross the Mexico border from
> dehydration etc?

Quite a lot. Maybe our current friends the Chinese could help us out with another Great Wall.
posted by jfuller at 5:10 PM on April 5, 2001


Well, he was probably charged for manslaughter because there was no mens rea for murder. He was't actually trying to kill them, just smuggle them in . . . How many people die trying to cross the Mexico border from dehydration etc?

Your analogy doesn't fit. This would be like someone smuggling Mexicans across the Rio Grande, and holding them underwater halfway. He cut off their air supply - I don't understand why this isn't thought of as murder. How could shutting the air vent help the smuggling effort in any way?

Also, last I checked, most individuals coming over the US-Mexico border aren't seeking political asylum.
posted by OneBallJay at 6:29 PM on April 5, 2001


There's now quite a problem with immigrants trying to get through the Chunnel whichever way they can. Some have even tried walking on the tracks, all 20-odd miles. One family strapped itself to the undercarriage of a train. For whatever reason, they expect that the immigration rules in Britain are more favorable, or they can get from there to the US more easily.

I would think that closing the air vents, if it were not intentionally done to murder them, could at best be second-degree murder. But even then you usually need intent to cause bodily harm. It's just the way the laws work.
posted by dhartung at 8:05 PM on April 5, 2001


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