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Giving Meaning to Man's Death at the Hands of a Drunk Driver

November 11, 1990

A few months ago, Jerry Zuniga, the 18-year-old son of a co-worker, was killed in a car accident involving a drunk driver. Ironically, the car in which he was a passenger was very slowly approaching the scene of an accident when it was struck from behind at high speed.

Jerry, the only fatality, was killed instantly. The other boy in the rear of the car with him was seriously, and perhaps irreparably, injured. The two boys in the front sustained only minor injuries.

It has recently been brought to our attention that due to the driver's blood-alcohol level and lack of prior offenses, he will most likely receive only a minor sentence--at worst, nothing more than probation.

This information does little to bolster our confidence in the criminal justice system. What does our judicial system do? Do they just slap this man on the wrist and send him back to his life with only his conscience for a guide?

Did Jerry have the same chance to go on with his life? He's now presumably just another statistic, just another cog in the rusting bureaucratic wheels of the judicial system.

We can't let him be just another statistic. He was a living, breathing human being with goals and dreams and ambitions for a future he will now never see to its fruition. He's not just another male Hispanic DOA for the statisticians to add to their records. Jerry might have changed the world, but now we'll never get the chance to find that out.

What of Jerry's family and friends? Can we just say, "Sorry, that's all we can do," or do we work to do more? Do we let the judicial system tell us that the life and subsequent death of Jerry Zuniga had no meaning?

This problem must be brought to the attention of the public. If the death of Jerry and others like him can save one life, then perhaps their deaths have meant something after all.

Why let drunk drivers out with minor penalties? Is it so they can murder more of our children and loved ones?

DARLENE THORELL, Fountain Valley

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