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Children dying in hot cars - mistake or crime?

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Allison D.

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Date: 3/12/2009 10:10:20 AM
Author: vespergirl

The statistics show that this is incredibly rare (42 dead last year) of the millions of kids who are strapped into car seats every day. There is an infintesimal chance of this happening to anyone - and I''m sure that most of the children who are strapped into car seats and NOT forgotten also have parents that are stressed, sleep-deprived and distracted, yet they don''t forget their kids. That''s why the ''it can happen to anyone'' argument is weak to me - there are million of parents with circumstances identical to theirs that don''t bake their kids in cars every day - which makes me think that there''s something particular to those parents circumstances or brain wiring that are not just like any other busy working parent''s. If it could so easily happen, then why doesn''t it happen more frequently?

It DOES happen more frequently. It''s just that some people realize the mistake before it''s too late, and you never hear about those.

Several people in this thread have noted became distracted and forgot for five minutes, ten minutes, etc. My mom, a SAHM, mistakenly left my sister in the shoe department of the department store in her carseat once. She didn''t realize it until she got out to the car and went to put her into her carseat.

Of course, back then (mid 70s), it was a more tolerant and less litigious world and people had more compassion than they do now. Now everyone''s into blame and placing eternal shame on others publicly.

We seem as a society to be going back to the ''public shame and send them to the gallows" mentality....which is just a shame. In our earnest to insist on personal responsibility, we''ve taken it to the other ridiculous extreme where there is no such thing as an honest accident.
8.gif
 

lucyandroger

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Date: 3/12/2009 1:00:01 PM
Author: vespergirl

Here is another example of this happening in my area, where the father was convicted, and agrees with the punishment the judge meted out - he feels that it was fair, and goes so far as to call the judge merciful in his interview. I think that the judge''s sentence was spot on - not needlessly punitive, but not allowing his child''s death to be forgotten by the community either. This shows that even some parents of children dying from unintentional car hyperthermia agree that they should be legally punished for the incident:

http://ggweather.com/heat/ap_sentencing.htm

So what of Kevin Kelly? What did he deserve?

Would it influence your opinion to know that the day Frances died, May 29, 2002, the Manassas engineer was watching 12 children alone while his wife and oldest daughter were abroad visiting a cancer-stricken relative?



Does it matter that when he returned home that day, he''d asked two teenage children - both of baby-sitting age - to attend to their younger siblings while he went back to school for another daughter who was late getting out of an exam?



Or that during the next seven hours, he was accosted by an air conditioning repairman with news that he was going to have to spend several thousand dollars on a new unit? That he fixed lunch, did laundry, mended a gap in the fence that the little ones were using to escape the yard, drove to the store for parts to fix his air conditioner, took a son to soccer practice and fixed a leaking drain pipe in the basement?



Prince William County Commonwealth''s Attorney Paul L. Ebert concluded that Kelly''s failure to ask after Frances for seven hours rose to the level of a crime. Kelly was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment. The jury recommended a year in prison.



But Circuit Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. had what he thought was a more humane solution. He ordered Kelly to spend one day a year in jail for seven years and to hold an annual blood drive around the anniversary of his daughter''s death.



Kelly is still a convicted felon. He cannot vote, and his job was affected because he is barred from certain government properties.



But waiting in line recently at the All Saints Catholic Church to donate blood, he said he is happy for the chance to honor his daughter by helping to save lives.



''The judge was very, very merciful,'' he said as his red-haired children scurried around giving snacks and stickers to donors. ''And I''m very grateful for what he did in allowing me to stay with my family and support my family.''


Again, you completely misinterpret something. I do encourage people to read the article you linked because it completely goes against your point. Also, I wondered if you read this part of the article???


******
"The value of the item is not only not relevant in these competing memory systems," says memory expert David Diamond, an associate psychology professor at the University of South Florida who also works at a Veterans Affairs hospital. "But, in fact, we can be more complacent because we tell ourselves, ''There''s no way I would forget my child.''"

Harvard University professor Daniel Shachter, a leading brain researcher, says memory is very "cue dependent."


"And in these cases, the cue is often missing," he says. "When we go on automatic, it''s very possible for us to ignore or forget about seemingly important things."


Like a baby.

*****
 

vespergirl

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Date: 3/12/2009 1:05:43 PM
Author: TravelingGal
Vespergirl, seriously give it a rest. We get it. Punish the parents. People like you demand justice.

Honestly, it''s been awhile since I''ve seen such an unyielding opinion on PS.
You know, I honestly find this offensive. I have not asked anyone to reply to my posts, I am only posting my ideas and thoughts. This is a message board after all. I have not attacked or criticized anyone else for having a differing opinion from myself. I have merely posted my thoughts, and then replied to posts where people questioned my ideas.

I would NEVER presume to tell anyone else to cease posting on a topic. I never told you to stop posting because we have a difference of opinion. If you are not interested in reading any more of my posts, then don''t. No one is forcing you to read this thread or respond. I think it''s in really poor taste to ask someone to stop posting just because you disagree with them.
 

cara

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Date: 3/12/2009 1:00:01 PM

Author: vespergirl
Here is another example of this happening in my area, where the father was convicted, and agrees with the punishment the judge meted out - he feels that it was fair, and goes so far as to call the judge merciful in his interview. I think that the judge's sentence was spot on - not needlessly punitive, but not allowing his child's death to be forgotten by the community either. This shows that even some parents of children dying from unintentional car hyperthermia agree that they should be legally punished for the incident:

http://ggweather.com/heat/ap_sentencing.htm

Just because one parent wanted to be prosecuted and criminally punished out of their own sense of guilt doesn't mean it is actually in society's best interest to do so.

There is both judicial and prosecutorial discretion. You want to rely on judicial discretion to come up with 'creative' sentences but not allow for prosecutorial discretion. Prosecutors are allowed to decline to prosecute if they don't think a crime was committed, and I'm not sure that these parents actually committed a crime. While in the case you cite the judge worked to come up with something reasonable, sometimes judges do not have the flexibility to downwardly adjust sentences in this manner. Sometimes judges must apply a minimum sentence, so the only question is really if a crime was committed or not.

Another parent might be at risk for a much more severe sentence. If they had other kids to support, even if they were drowning in guilt and would have welcomed the prison walls, they would be inclined to defend themselves in court out of obligation to their family. This costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, is very stressful, and to what end? To show that the child was remembered by society? What about allowing the parents and their family to bury and grieve for their child - its hard to do that when you are trying to keep a loved one from being locked up for years. There is also a cost to society to stripping a person of his voting rights and labeling him a felon. Maybe he loses a job, maybe he doesn't feel part of the community, maybe the combination of being responsible for his childs death AND criminally prosecuted for it (rather than let off as an accident) pushes the person over the edge, and they are lost mentally never to recover.

If the person had committed an intentional murder, there is no question that the social costs of punishing this person for killing their child would be worth it - but for a mistake? a mistake made under the circumstances in the WP article?

Clearly you think the costs are worth it. I'm just not so sure. Criminal prosecution is not the proper response to all bad events.
 

TravelingGal

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Date: 3/12/2009 2:09:28 PM
Author: vespergirl

Date: 3/12/2009 1:05:43 PM
Author: TravelingGal
Vespergirl, seriously give it a rest. We get it. Punish the parents. People like you demand justice.

Honestly, it''s been awhile since I''ve seen such an unyielding opinion on PS.
You know, I honestly find this offensive. I have not asked anyone to reply to my posts, I am only posting my ideas and thoughts. This is a message board after all. I have not attacked or criticized anyone else for having a differing opinion from myself. I have merely posted my thoughts, and then replied to posts where people questioned my ideas.

I would NEVER presume to tell anyone else to cease posting on a topic. I never told you to stop posting because we have a difference of opinion. If you are not interested in reading any more of my posts, then don''t. No one is forcing you to read this thread or respond. I think it''s in really poor taste to ask someone to stop posting just because you disagree with them.
You know what? You''re right. I apologize if I was offensive because you are correct in saying this is a message board and you are entitled to voice your opinion. I was exasperated and spoke out of turn.

I spoke that way because I found some of the things you said offensive to working mothers and that colored my view.
 

vespergirl

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Date: 3/12/2009 2:34:39 PM
Author: TravelingGal

Date: 3/12/2009 2:09:28 PM
Author: vespergirl


Date: 3/12/2009 1:05:43 PM
Author: TravelingGal
Vespergirl, seriously give it a rest. We get it. Punish the parents. People like you demand justice.

Honestly, it''s been awhile since I''ve seen such an unyielding opinion on PS.
You know, I honestly find this offensive. I have not asked anyone to reply to my posts, I am only posting my ideas and thoughts. This is a message board after all. I have not attacked or criticized anyone else for having a differing opinion from myself. I have merely posted my thoughts, and then replied to posts where people questioned my ideas.

I would NEVER presume to tell anyone else to cease posting on a topic. I never told you to stop posting because we have a difference of opinion. If you are not interested in reading any more of my posts, then don''t. No one is forcing you to read this thread or respond. I think it''s in really poor taste to ask someone to stop posting just because you disagree with them.
You know what? You''re right. I apologize if I was offensive because you are correct in saying this is a message board and you are entitled to voice your opinion. I was exasperated and spoke out of turn.

I spoke that way because I found some of the things you said offensive to working mothers and that colored my view.
No worries, this is obviously a topic that brings out a lot of emotion in everyone. I didn''t mean for any of my posts to offend working mothers, so I apologize if they did.

I just enjoy a good debate. Girl, you know I''ve got to get intellectual stimulation somewhere outside of watching Sesame Street
emwink.gif
 

TravelingGal

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Joined
Dec 29, 2004
Messages
17,193
Date: 3/12/2009 3:00:58 PM
Author: vespergirl

Date: 3/12/2009 2:34:39 PM
Author: TravelingGal


Date: 3/12/2009 2:09:28 PM
Author: vespergirl



Date: 3/12/2009 1:05:43 PM
Author: TravelingGal
Vespergirl, seriously give it a rest. We get it. Punish the parents. People like you demand justice.

Honestly, it''s been awhile since I''ve seen such an unyielding opinion on PS.
You know, I honestly find this offensive. I have not asked anyone to reply to my posts, I am only posting my ideas and thoughts. This is a message board after all. I have not attacked or criticized anyone else for having a differing opinion from myself. I have merely posted my thoughts, and then replied to posts where people questioned my ideas.

I would NEVER presume to tell anyone else to cease posting on a topic. I never told you to stop posting because we have a difference of opinion. If you are not interested in reading any more of my posts, then don''t. No one is forcing you to read this thread or respond. I think it''s in really poor taste to ask someone to stop posting just because you disagree with them.
You know what? You''re right. I apologize if I was offensive because you are correct in saying this is a message board and you are entitled to voice your opinion. I was exasperated and spoke out of turn.

I spoke that way because I found some of the things you said offensive to working mothers and that colored my view.
No worries, this is obviously a topic that brings out a lot of emotion in everyone. I didn''t mean for any of my posts to offend working mothers, so I apologize if they did.

I just enjoy a good debate. Girl, you know I''ve got to get intellectual stimulation somewhere outside of watching Sesame Street
emwink.gif
LOL, I hear you there. If I have to hear that jungle tune coming out of the rainforest jumperoo one more time, I may have to jump into a heated car myself.
3.gif
 

trillionaire

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Apr 18, 2008
Messages
3,881
Date: 3/12/2009 1:00:01 PM
Author: vespergirl
Here is another example of this happening in my area, where the father was convicted, and agrees with the punishment the judge meted out - he feels that it was fair, and goes so far as to call the judge merciful in his interview. I think that the judge''s sentence was spot on - not needlessly punitive, but not allowing his child''s death to be forgotten by the community either. This shows that even some parents of children dying from unintentional car hyperthermia agree that they should be legally punished for the incident:


http://ggweather.com/heat/ap_sentencing.htm


So what of Kevin Kelly? What did he deserve?

Would it influence your opinion to know that the day Frances died, May 29, 2002, the Manassas engineer was watching 12 children alone while his wife and oldest daughter were abroad visiting a cancer-stricken relative?



Does it matter that when he returned home that day, he''d asked two teenage children - both of baby-sitting age - to attend to their younger siblings while he went back to school for another daughter who was late getting out of an exam?



Or that during the next seven hours, he was accosted by an air conditioning repairman with news that he was going to have to spend several thousand dollars on a new unit? That he fixed lunch, did laundry, mended a gap in the fence that the little ones were using to escape the yard, drove to the store for parts to fix his air conditioner, took a son to soccer practice and fixed a leaking drain pipe in the basement?



Prince William County Commonwealth''s Attorney Paul L. Ebert concluded that Kelly''s failure to ask after Frances for seven hours rose to the level of a crime. Kelly was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment. The jury recommended a year in prison.



But Circuit Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. had what he thought was a more humane solution. He ordered Kelly to spend one day a year in jail for seven years and to hold an annual blood drive around the anniversary of his daughter''s death.



Kelly is still a convicted felon. He cannot vote, and his job was affected because he is barred from certain government properties.



But waiting in line recently at the All Saints Catholic Church to donate blood, he said he is happy for the chance to honor his daughter by helping to save lives.



''The judge was very, very merciful,'' he said as his red-haired children scurried around giving snacks and stickers to donors. ''And I''m very grateful for what he did in allowing me to stay with my family and support my family.''


If someone offered me leniency rather than the suggested 7 years, I would be grateful too, because it was the lesser of two evils. That in no way proves that he thinks that he should face criminal prosecution in the first place, but it was not up to him to decide. Whereas the judge chose a more practical punishment for a man with a large family, he may as well have told him to patrol parking lots for kids and babies locked in cars. This was not a father that was going to forget his mistake in the first place. If anything, a legal retribution acts like it "makes it okay", when really, it doesn''t change much of anything beyond further disrupting families in crisis.
 

Tuckins1

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Apr 13, 2008
Messages
8,614
Of course it is a crime- it''s neglect and it results in the death of a human being. However, I do feel sad for everyone involved. People''s lives are busy and fast paced, and people do forget things! (Although I do not know how you forget a CHILD)... Not to make excuses, but that''s just how I feel. It''s a sad situation, with no malicious intent, but a crime is a crime.
 

purrfectpear

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Mar 31, 2008
Messages
4,079
It seems like so many of you are equating forgetting the kid''s lunch bucket, or leaving your keys on the counter with a much more serious thing to forget.

If it''s all so human to forget your kid in the back seat then why don''t more of us do it? I managed to get through 18 years of never forgetting my child in the bathtub, the backseat, picking up at school/daycare, watching him near water, the stove, the iron, and all sorts of child dangers. What, I was just lucky? Maybe my "lizard" brain was just more highly evolved because I knew that toddlers require watching 24/7. As a single mom I didn''t even go to the bathroom alone in my own house for 6 years. I dragged that poor kid into the bathroom with me while I showered, changed tampons, everything. You don''t leave a 2 year old alone. I had an alarm on the exterior doors that would go off if the door was opened (unless you reached up and turned it off first). I never took a nap for the first 6 years. The only sleeping I did was at night, long after my son had been put to bed.

Yes, we could have had accidents like tripping on the stairs (we didn''t, I lucked out there), or a bicycle accident or something, but there was no forgetting that I was the sole adult with 100% responsibility for the well being of my son.
 

diamondseeker2006

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Messages
58,471
It is good that I missed this, because it made me livid reading through it. Suffice it to say that I agree 150% with TGal, Deco, Alj, and other who said that this can happen to ANYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The very idea of charging the parents in these situations blows my mind!!!

I remember extremely clearly when it happened in our area. A veterinarian was supposed to take the baby to daycare one day when his wife, a doctor, normally did it. The baby was asleep in the car and he was on his normal auto-pilot to work. So the baby was left in the car and died. And when it was discovered, he was so devastated that he was admitted to the psychiatic ward of the hospital. This story was so heartbreaking to me, that I never forgot it and later did a search to see if I could find out anymore about that couple. I wondered if she stayed with him after such a tragedy. It turned out that the newspaper did a follow-up article two or three years later. The wife forgave her husband, and they did eventually have another baby. It was really a relief to hear that they had survived it.

Anyone who has been around long enough knows that one day when our routine changes that we''ll make a mistake. Once we drove two cars to church and got home and realized we had left a child there! Both of us thought the other had her! Thankfully she was happily occupied with people we trust and love. Did we need to be arrested for neglect? Um, I don''t think so.

If you think this can''t happen to you, then I''d have to say I truly fear for you.

I knew when they started requiring rear facing car seats in the back that it would result in deaths. I''d be much more in favor of disabling passenger side airbags and having my babies beside me where I can see them if they are choking or having trouble breathing. Or I could more easily talk to them and comfort them if they cried rather than trying to look back while driving. In fact, at least our first two were able to be in the front, and I think it is much safer as long as the airbag is disabled.

And to others, I think you may have an underlying issue with abuse in your past that makes you have an unfair and distorted view toward the parents in these tragedies. The difference is that these parents meant no harm. It was a horrible accident. Abuse and neglect are deliberate and totally different than this.
 

Feralpenchant

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Messages
427
This is a perfect example of the the 2 sides being argued here..

I am so forgetful. I''ll forget to do something important, and my mother will get mad at me saying "How could you forget to do that? How do you forget something like that?"

And the only answer I can give her is "I really don''t know, I''m sorry, I just forgot. It literally did not cross my mind at all, so there is no way I could have remembered without someone reminding me in time for me to do it."

She of course can''t relate to and doesn''t understand that answer. She doesn''t see how you can "just forget".

In the case of these parents, they just forgot. Like me, there is no way they would or could have remembered unless they had a cue like the baby crying, or someone called to remind them. Like my mom, many people don''t understand how you can "just forget".

I realize that infants died in these cases, no one died when I forgot to thank my grandmother for the 100 dollars that she sent me. I don''t think it''s a crime, but I do think it''s negligence. Maybe that''s just because I can relate to how these people "just forgot." It''s a horrible thing to forget, but as scary as it is, if you can forget to charge your cell phone, you can forget a baby. Period. Your brain functions the way it built to function. It doesn''t care if it''s your cell phone or your child. If you''re gonna forget it, then you''re gonna forget it. My 0.02 cents..
 

partgypsy

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Cara thanks for your list, those are awesome!.
Vesper your ideas of mirror and leaving items in the back seat are also good, and belies your assertion you believe it could never happen to you.

In addition to memory another topic people may be interested in looking into is that of human factors. For example in piloting an airplane there are many dials, indicators, warning bells, and also a huge manual of practices to follow. Why? Is it because the pilot doesn''t want to land the plane safely, as Vesper may put it? Rather it''s because the human brain is prone to error, and so one has to "build in" safeguards to overcome these tendencies, in both hardware AND in procedures and routines that have to be followed. The same way (as Basil put it) with surgical procedures. A risk is acknowledged, and attempts are made to minimize that risk. On the other hand other than the parent''s fallible memory, and whatever ad hoc routines they themselves put in place there is NOTHING to prevent a child being left in a car. The only reason why SAHM may be less likely for this to happen is because their routine is congruent with remembering the child; they are the ones who are always picking, dropping off the child, etc NOT because of superhuman mommy powers.

So what do we do? Throw up our hands and throw the unfortunates in prison? Or acknowledge in addition to so many other dangers our children face that this is another one, and to be educated and proactive about it. Because believe me sleep deprived parents are not going away.
 

fieryred33143

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Date: 3/13/2009 11:41:42 AM
Author: part gypsy

The only reason why SAHM may be less likely for this to happen is because their routine is congruent with remembering the child; they are the ones who are always picking, dropping off the child, etc NOT because of superhuman mommy powers.
I''ve been reading this thread and hoping someone would mention this.

There are times when I''m driving to work or driving home and my exit comes up and I cannot for the life of me figure out how in the world I got to that point. I can''t remember the road, the cars next to me, my speed...nothing. You just get so used to doing the same thing in the same order all the time.

This isn''t the same as leaving a child in the car but I remember when my dad used to work in Manhattan. We lived in Brooklyn. He used to walk to the bus, take the bus to a station, then take the train into the city. On the train he would read his newspaper and when he got off, he always got a coffee and bagel from a guy on the corner.

On Father/Daughter day, he took me with him. When it was his time to get off of the train, he just walked right out. I was behind him but with everyone pushing I lost sight of him and yelled out "Daaadddyyy" and he came over and gave me a huge hug.

He forgot all about me. He was so used to reading his paper and running out of the train that he completely forgot I was with him. I didn''t know he forgot me. My mom told me about it years later because when we got home that evening he cried to my mom about it. He was so hurt that he did that and kept saying over and over "what if I had lost her." I was maybe 6 at the time. There was no way I would have been able to find my way home from the city (although I like to believe that I would have gone to a police officer). My dad wasn''t a bad man and all other times, I was his human tail...completely attached to him and everywhere he went. On the weekends, he took me everywhere with him. But that work routine was so familiar to him and he had never taken me to work before that he just forgot.
 
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