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One Family's View of Justice

March 24, 1994

* Our 21-year-old son is dead. His killer, the driver in a one-car crash, was sentenced to 60 days in county jail for taking a human life. Was justice served?

On Oct. 24, 1993, our son, a senior at Loyola Marymount University, was the only passenger in an automobile in which the driver lost control at 71 m.p.h. in third gear (from the police report) and crossed four lanes before hitting the berm and becoming airborne for 52 feet and then hitting a tree. This all happened at the 101/405 interchange. Our son, who was wearing a seat belt, was ejected 70 feet from the car and was killed instantly; the driver did not have even a bruise. The killer's blood-alcohol level was .11.

On Feb. 25, we experienced the second worst day of our lives. We attended Van Nuys Municipal Court for the sentencing of our son's killer. The judge minimalized and trivialized our son's life. This was our first time ever in court and we were unprepared for the frustration. We now understand the common concern that criminal rights take precedence over victims' rights in our judicial system. We witnessed this firsthand.

The only positive of this day was the presence and support of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. A MADD representative was with us throughout the court proceedings to guide us and assist us through every aspect of the courtroom "sham."

We had been informed that no sentencing would take place before we had our input in court. Both of us had prepared statements. But the judge had decided the sentence before anyone had even entered the courtroom. We decided not to suffer an emotional upset by baring our souls for naught. The judge used the term "creative sentencing," allowing the felon to complete his school semester before serving his sentence. Chances are slim that the driver will ever even serve his "full" term of 60 days. Probation, some community service and a youth program complete what the judge terms "creative sentencing."

We do not believe that the deputy district attorney represented us, our son or the people of the County of Los Angeles in this case. Too much consideration was given to this being a "first offense." No one seemed to care that the first offense killed our son. We sincerely hope that the driver never kills anyone else's child on his "second" offense.

PATRICK and ROSALINDA SAHLI

San Francisco

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