Friday, September 26, 2008

If You Think Too Hard It Only Makes You Mad

By Kevin Guilfoile

It was less than a year ago that we chronicled the trial of Jeanette Sliwinski, the former stripper and trade show model who ran her Mustang at 90 miles an hour into the back of a Honda Civic, killing three Chicago musicians. She was found guilty but mentally ill of reckless homicide and was sentenced to just eight years in prison.

And this Thursday she will walk out of jail.

To understand how eight years became ten months, you have to accept that prison math is all about subtraction. There was time served. Time off for good behavior. Time credited for counseling. It's a fact of an overcrowded prison system.

But I wonder if the original sentence--eight years for taking three lives--was as light as it was only because Sliwinski chose a car as her weapon.

We have a habit of calling any collision involving an automobile an "accident." No doubt if you had been listening to AM radio in Chicago on July 14, 2005, the traffic report would have warned you of an "accident" at the intersection of Dempster and Niles Center Road. Somebody missed a red light. Somebody was texting while driving. Just an accident.

But what happened on that spot that day was no accident.

If on July 14, 2005, Sliwinski had walked into that intersection with a gun or a bomb and, in an attempt to take her own life also killed three other people, she would not have received a prison sentence of only eight years. I guarantee you she would have been committed for life. She would have been called a danger. A threat to society. But what is the difference between that and steering a 2,000 pound missile into the back of another car at almost 100 miles an hour?

The difference is John Glick, Michael Dahlquist, and Doug Meis might have survived if Jeanette Sliwinski had only shot them.

18 comments:

guyot said...

No words worthy.

David Terrenoire said...

I feel guilty thinking it was worse that she killed musicians.

Is that terrible?

Sara Paretsky said...

Kevin, I'm so sorry for this ongoing grief and helplessness, for you and all the families and friends.

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