By Tom Demerly for tomdemerly.com
Terry Lee Lacroix is responsible for the death of Karen McKeachie.
That is a fact.
Had it not been for his willful actions on August 26, 2016 at approximately 10:45 AM, McKeachie would be alive today.
There is no question about the responsibility of Terry Lee Lacroix. He caused her death. That is known.
But what is mysterious is what should be done with Terry Lee Lacroix in the aftermath of Karen McKeachie’s killing? And it is a killing. It is not an accident. Lacroix’s willful decisions directly caused McKeachie’s death.
Emotionally some may want to exact a type of “revenge”, a willful infliction of loss or suffering upon the perpetrator Terry Lee Lacroix for the killing of Karen McKeachie. There may be a circumstance when this is appropriate. If Lacroix were in a position to willfully kill again. Then his capability to do so must be neutralized in the interest of public safety.
How our courts decide to punish Terry Lee Lacroix for the killing of Karen McKeachie will say a great deal about our society. It will place a value on a life. It will demonstrate what we are willing to do to prevent further loss of life, and it will reveal structural insights about our character and intellect.
What was Karen McKeachie’s life “worth”? What is the value of the life of the next victim of a similar killing? And, there will be more willful killings of cyclists by motorists.
To decide you must look in the mirror. Put a price on your life. What would you exchange for it? What is the correct toll for your life’s forfeiture?
I’ll suggest no such comparison; no such valuation can be assessed. The value of your life, and the loss of McKeachie’s, is incalculable.
But what about the next life lost to willfully deadly driving? And there will be more.
As a culture have we learned anything from losing Karen McKeachie? Will we change anything? Will the existing laws be applied as a template, and then reused on the next willful killing of a cyclist?
On Monday MLive.com reported that Terry Lee Lacroix pleaded “no contest” to a “misdemeanor charge of a moving violation causing death”. The maximum penalty is one year in jail. We are, in effect, stating clearly that, “If you choose to kill a cyclist with your car, you may go to prison for a year.” That is the value we place on a bicycle rider’s life. One year of confinement. Three hundred sixty five days confinement and the remaining legal record and expenses. That’s it.
A one-year jail term is not a substantial enough penalty for willfully killing a cyclist with a motor vehicle.
And because it is not substantial enough, because the penalty is not commensurate with the loss, the deterrent value, the compelling reason to drive more carefully, does not exist. Until the penalty fits the crime, cyclists are little more than collateral damage that may cost a reckless driver a year in jail, a prison record and legal fees.
But one year is all. And that is wrong. Your life, the life of Karen McKeachie and the lives of every cyclist are worth a greater penalty to compel drivers to behave more cautiously around cyclists.