Vermont’s attorney general, as it relates to the negligent operation of a motor vehicle resulting in death, has determined a human life is worth a mere $110, or $220 for two. Think about that for a moment. That’s what the attorney general has settled on in the case involving Isabel Jennifer Seward from Atlanta, Georgia.
The teenage driver was apparently more concerned about operating her phone when she crossed the centerline on Route 7 North hitting head on and killing Mr. and Mrs. Chet Hawkins back in September last year. She was issued a civil traffic ticket “for driving on roadways laned for traffic” and assessed a $220 fine. That’s all.
The statute for grossly negligent operation of a motor vehicle is:
Title 23 : Motor Vehicles Chapter 013 : Operation Of Vehicles
Subchapter 009 : Violations And Penalties (Cite as: 23 V.S.A. § 1091)
§ 1091. Negligent operation; grossly negligent operation
Section (b) Grossly negligent operation.
(1) A person who operates a motor vehicle on a public highway in a grossly negligent manner shall be guilty of grossly negligent operation.
(2) The standard for a conviction for grossly negligent operation in violation of this subsection shall be gross negligence, examining whether the person engaged in conduct that involved a gross deviation from the care that a reasonable person would have exercised in that situation.
(3) … If serious bodily injury to or death of any person other than the operator results, the operator shall be imprisoned for not more than 15 years or fined not more than $15,000, or both. If serious bodily injury or death results to more than one person other than the operator, the operator may be convicted of a separate violation of this subdivision for each decedent or person injured.
Why was this case not moved to family court whereby the attorney general could then move it to adult criminal court where she would have faced the charge of grossly negligent operation resulting in the death of two people? Justice has not been served. The law provides for more serious prosecution than a mere $220 fine. I am sure Ms. Seward would seek the court’s mercy thus receiving a lesser, but just, sentence and fine. Or are we ready to accept the Hawkins’ lives were worth a mere $220 without even a slap on the wrist.
What say you, Attorney General Donovan?
Russell Lennon lives in Rutland.