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Let the Punishment Fit the Crime

December 06, 1986

Even though I am a lawyer, I regret that our historical tradition naturally compels us to adopt solutions that are rooted in the thinking mode of English law instead of French law. Thinking in that mode, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle has solved the problem posed by Green Bay Packer Charles Martin's season-ending late hit on Chicago Bear quarterback Jim McMahon by suspending Martin for only two games. Typical of English law, the punishment is gauged by the offense of the offender, and not based on the harm done to the victim.

Under French law, the latter would be true. Applied here it would mean that Martin would be suspended from play until his victim was able to return to play. If that meant one game, Martin would be suspended for one game; if for the rest of the season, we would have to wait until next year to see Martin as well. If it were a career-ending injury, then Martin would have to find a new line of work. It may be harsh, but maybe the offender would consider a cheap shot as something that would not only end his victim's career, but his own as well.

ROBERT S. HENRY

Pasadena

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