Will Gov. Kulongoski Pardon David Black?

Jo Ann Hardesty

As the Bend bulletin editorial expressed in a xmas day story young people do stupid things that can have a profound impact on their future. Can kids grow and learn from bad decisions? Don't we expect kids to do stupid things?

David Black is not unique. He was sentenced to six years and 3-months in 2003 for the death of two girls involving in a speed racing incident. David Black called 911, was not convicted of a previous crime and others involved in the incident pled guilty and received a lesser sentence. The Deschutes County prosecutor didn't like David's attitude, and didn't appreciate him not pleading guilty, so decided that he should be made an example for the rest of the community of the evils of drag racing.

David Black was stupid to participate in this drag race, no question, but others shared the blame and received significantly less because they pled guilty. I know some will say that 6-years & 3-months is nothing when you are responsible for someone else losing their life, however, this case points out the problems with a 1-strike you are out law. The equality that voters were promised with BM 11 is an illusion at best and an outright lie at worse. EVERYTHING depends on who the district attorney is and whether or not they want to push for the harshest sentence possible.

That's not what voters were promised with measure 11. but it is certainly what we got! Will Gov. Kulongoski pardon David Black? I don't know, but I think he should. What I know for sure is measure 11 is bad public policy and we are locking up our future leaders at a rate that is shameful. Its as if we forget ultimately they get out. I don't know David Black, but their are many David Blacks wasting away in our prisons.

Truly that was not the intent. I hope the Gov. finds the political courage to review all BM 11 cases before leaving office. There are others who could benefit from a governor's pardon. In addition our legislature needs to revise BM 11 to ensure that judges have the ability to temper justice with mercy.

Comments

  • throowrocks (unverified)
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    They might be locking up your future leaders not mine.

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    He was sentenced to six years and 3-months in 2003...

    His release date must be coming up quick. Strange he isn't out already on early release--someone else not liking his attitude?

    Doing six years for two deaths is hardly "1-strike you are out." Six years isn't a picnic, but it's hardly life without parole.

  • Law-n-Order D (unverified)
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    Wait, your upset that he received a harsher sentence than those who took responsibility for their actions and got a lesser sentence than one who rolled the dice on a trial? Better treatment for those who take plea deals has been with us since the law began.

  • ws (unverified)
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    Did the judgment against David Black reflect bias and excess on the part of the Deschutes County prosecutor? Hard to tell from this plea in Black's defense by Jo Ann Bowman. There's virtually nothing here explaining about the speed racing incident itself, very little about what Black did relative to it, why he chose to plead innocent rather than guilty, or even what his actual attitude was throughout the trial proceedings, in the opinion of other people.

    I don't know enough about the incident to know whether Black got punished excessively or not. This I know: killing people is a serious offense. Street racing is a completely stupid thing to do. Any driver that isn't prepared to be a responsible person behind the wheel shouldn't be driving. If, with that kind of attitude, they go ahead and drive anyway, killing people with a motor vehicle, something has to be done.

    Really, if 6 years and 3 months was too much, what should the response to this guy's actions have been?

  • Lyndon S (unverified)
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    Yes, Ms. Bowman is right when she says that the legislature needs to revise sentencing laws for drag racing homicides.

    Anyone whose street racing result in two innocent children being killed need to spend more than 75 months in the pen. My suggestion, a 10 year (120 month) minimum for each child killed.

    What about the families of those two girls? I wonder if they feel badly for Mr. Black?

    Oregonians, and most Oregon Democrats, are very much correct when they demand stiff penalties for violent felons like Mr. Black.

    His lack of intent is no different than that of drunk drivers who kill innocent people. He does not deserve our sympathy.

  • Bob (unverified)
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    Wait... the best poster case for reforming measure 11 is someone who killed two girls and is somehow a victim of the system because he's serving 6 years in prison!?

    I'm no fan of prosecutors, I'm an absolute opponent of the death penalty, and I think our drug laws are absurd, but when you take a life, you take a life, and you ought to be punished for it.

    David Black made a decision that ended two lives. End of story. A sentence of 3 years each for killing two girls is far too light. The real prosecutorial misconduct in this case is letting anyone involved in the race go to prison for less time.

    Highlighting cases like this will only increase calls for strengthening sentences, and won't convince anyone that Measure 11 needs fixing.

  • Walter (unverified)
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    The Bend Bulletin has an interesting write-up about the sentencing and even suggests leniency.

    I think the Bulletin makes a good case about the inconsistency in the sentencing; I still don't see why their onus is on reducing Black's sentence rather than the harsher sentences his associates should have received.

    Bob's comment above suns up my general sentiment: There are plenty of good reasons to reform Measure 11... David Black isn't one of them.

  • dartagnan (unverified)
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    "This I know: killing people is a serious offense."

    Yes, it is. But David Black did not kill anybody. He was only one of a number of people involved in racing in that area that night. He was not racing with the girl when her car went out of control and hit another car head-on, killing her and her passenger.

    "Really, if 6 years and 3 months was too much, what should the response to this guy's actions have been?"

    What would he normally have been charged with if nobody had been killed? Speeding, reckless driving? THOSE would have been appropriate charges. I repeat: HE DID NOT KILL ANYBODY. He got a heavy prison sentence because he chose not to plead guilty to a crime he was not guilty of (manslaughter) and because the DA wanted to "make an example" out of somebody.

    "A sentence of 3 years each for killing two girls is far too light."

    One more time: David Black DID NOT KILL ANYBODY. Please take the trouble to inform yourself about the facts of the case before pontificating about it.

    Just for the record, I am not a relation or friend of Black's and have no personal stake in this case, other than wanting to see justice done.

  • MiMi (unverified)
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    Posted by: dartagnan | Jan 12, 2009 8:02:19 AM

    "This I know: killing people is a serious offense."

    Who did the killing? The society that says you can give a drivers license to a 16 year old because auto sales would suffer otherwise. Wake up moonbeams! Commerce is king. What a piece of work! So, how many car commercials did you watch while the piece aired on the news that you were so concerned about?

    I repeat: HE DID NOT KILL ANYBODY. He got a heavy prison sentence because he chose not to plead guilty to a crime he was not guilty of (manslaughter) and because the DA wanted to "make an example" out of somebody.

    Go back to Civics 101. The American system of justice does not try to determine justice. It tries to secure a conviction, the other side an aquittal. There's a big, big diff. The DA got a conviction. Victory that is, under the American system. You want to poke tea leave and figure out if he's guilty, then go to France. If you don't get this study the numerous cases of vehicular homicide where the passenger lied to protect the driver, taking responsibility for the accident. In many cases they have changed their story, after conviction. Many had witnesses, physical evidence, the conclusions of the police, the testimony of the real driver... All for nothing. The DA has a conviction. There is no necessity to risk that to "get justice". Why are so many DNA-proven innocents still sitting in jails? Why are they only released at the discretion of the Gov? Because it's only about getting a conviction, they got one, end of story.

    Perry Mason is long dead and Judge Judy don't serve. "Killing people is a serious offense"? We give preference in hiring to those that have done it on command, without any personal grudge! No, murder, which is illegal killing- you deciding you can do the killing on your own- is a serious offense. Killing is common and justified for everything from what to set the speed limit at to how to manage illegals at the border or in the desert.

    The topic question is a good one. David Black is convicted. Since the system isn't about justice what a coincidence that we're discussing a Governor's pardon! That's how it works. So quit protesting his innocence and say why he should be pardoned!

  • Gibby (unverified)
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    Jo Ann writes "In addition our legislature needs to revise BM 11 to ensure that judges have the ability to temper justice with mercy".

    You have got to be kidding me! The inexcusable behavior and decision making of our judges was one of the reasons creating the need for M11 in the first place. Violent crime has declined so considerably there is little room for a valid argument here.

    David Black took little or no responsibility and decided to take his chances in court. That is his right. He dismissed an opportunity to take responsibility, and then was found to be responsible. What part of this is wrong?

    There is no doubt the community seems divided here, but that has little to do with measure 11. A circumstance of divided feelings in a community does not define all of the positive that measure 11 has brought to every community in Oregon.

    Dartagan, thank you for the post. I did take the time to review the circumstances. You and I may disagree on what was fair, but clearly the DA was not the bad guy here. It seems many folks in the community had differing opinions of fairness. That is why people sometimes go to trial.

    Just for the record I do not know the DA, Black, or the any of the families, and have personal stake in this case.

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    Is there a reason that the Deschutes County District Attorney being accused of overzealous prosecution here isn't being named? Oh, that's right, he's a Democrat.

    Never mind.

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    I think the real issue here is that DAs put personal convenience ahead of justice. Given how everyone else involved in this case got off with a slap on the wrist, it's clear that the real crime Mr. Black is being punished for is taking advantage of his constitutional right to plead innocent. I understand that overworked DAs often have to give an incentive for suspects to plead guilty to the crimes they committed. Without it, a huge percentage of criminals would have to be let go, due to the lack of courtroom resources (due to GOP determination to drown government in a bathtub). But when it gets to the point that the people who actually gave greater responsibility for a crime get lighter sentences than those only peripherally involved, something is definitely wrong.

    In other words, this Deschutes County DA acted in this case like a Republican, concerned more that suspects kow-tow to his power, than doing justice. And that, like most Republican behavior, brought dishonor on our system of government.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    These are the basics of the incidents that led to David Black's sentence under Measure 11:

    Several young people were gathered on a rural road to participate in and watch drag racing at night. A Crook County sheriff's car approached and the participants scattered. One of the cars that fled from the scene was driven by a 16-year old girl. Her passenger, another girl of similar age had her cell phone on and could be heard screaming to the driver to slow down before the car crashed and both were killed. Black was behind that car. His involvement in the crash was limited. He deserved to be punished for his drag racing but not the tragic deaths of these young women.

    The Bulletin's series on this case listed a number of cases where others had committed more serious crimes and received lesser punishments and one heinous crime where the perpetrator received the same sentence as Black.

    I rarely find myself in agreement with the Bulletin's editorials, but I did on this one. The following is an opinion piece I submitted and was published by the Bulletin. I hope it will prove to be food for thought.

    "The Bulletin's series on the non-crime and punishment of David Black has been commendable, and citizens with a concern for justice will hope the editors' efforts for a commutation will be rewarded. The alchemist who converted a relatively minor crime into a fatal tragedy was the driver of the vehicle who lacked the maturity to cope sensibly with the situation in which she was caught. It appears there was some degree of retribution involved in attaching guilt for the deaths involved to others who were much less culpable. Why not also charge the person who sold this young woman the car, her parents and the DMV who made it possible for her to drive before she was fully competent? This sequence of errors continued when those sitting in judgment failed to ponder their own youth and a version of an old saying: There but for the grace of God, the gods or chance might I have gone.

    "When I read all too frequently of travesties such as that inflicted on David Black, and worse, I'm reminded of a talk show I watched on British television several years ago. The guest was a sculptor who had created a new interpretation of Justice, the mythic, blind-folded lady with balanced scales we sometimes see on display at courthouses. This artist's work was shockingly different with Justice taking the form of a woman who had obviously been violently abused. Instead of her scales being held aloft, they dangled out of balance at her side. Her hair was disheveled, and the blindfold over her eyes was askew resembling more a bandage covering a head wound. Unlike the elegant robe in the original, the dress worn by this new Justice was torn and in disarray, and a bulbous belly suggested a consequent pregnancy. The title for this work was “Justice Raped.” As the artist explained, his motivation for this work came from observing justice being violated every day, a practice not limited to his native Britain but universal.

    "Perhaps some local artist might be inspired to create a rendition of “Justice Raped” and present it to the District Attorney's office as an object for reflection.

    "Here in these United States we are, unfortunately, more a nation of laws than one of justice. The law and justice are not always synonymous. Laws are frequently written to make some crimes legal and others a means of meting vengeance. Some are byproducts of fear, an emotion that should not be part of public policy. In many cases, double standards often apply. The essence of justice, on the other hand, informs our codes of ethics. It puts to the test our long-held beliefs and the moral courage to reconsider them. Justice is among the essential qualities for a society that would be civilized.

    "Shakespeare was excessively harsh when he had one of his characters propose killing all the lawyers, but he was the soul of humanity when he had Portia say of Mercy during the trial scene in “The Merchant of Venice,” “It is twice blessed: It blesses him that gives and him that takes.” Apparently, Mercy was not in the thoughts of voters who voted for Measure 11. If Mercy was present in the District Attorney's office when prosecutors set David Black on the railroad track to prison some will understandably suspect it was overruled by Ego. Mercy was obviously banished from the Deschutes County Courthouse when David Black was found guilty and sentenced to such a grossly unfair punishment.

    "Justice would have been better served if, instead, the jury had agreed with Mr. Bumble in Charles Dickens' “Oliver Twist.” "'If the law supposes that', said Mr. Bumble who had little use for judicial reasoning, 'the law is a ass — a idiot.'""

  • dartagnan (unverified)
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    "David Black took little or no responsibility and decided to take his chances in court. That is his right. He dismissed an opportunity to take responsibility, and then was found to be responsible. What part of this is wrong?"

    What is wrong is that the sentence is completely dispropirtionate to the actual crime(s) he committed. I will repeat it again: David Black DID NOT KILL ANYONE.

    There seems to be an attitude among some (many?) in our society that ANY crime, under any circumstances, by anybody, justifies ANY penalty that the DA wants to impose.

    What has happened to the idea that the punishment should fit the crime? What has happened to the idea of justice?

    If you read The Bulletin's editorials on the David Black case you will learn that another young man with a long and serious criminal record who dismembered a Bend woman in a hit-and-run accident, left her body lying in pieces in the road, and then tried to cover up his crime by burning his car got VIRTUALLY THE SAME SENTENCE as David Black -- who, I will say it one more time, DID NOT KILL ANYBODY and had a clean record.

    How is justice served when sentences are so arbitrary and capricious?

  • DSS (unverified)
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    "I will repeat it again: David Black DID NOT KILL ANYONE."

    Not by his own hands, sure.

    But he was a key player in the central criminal act that led to the girls' deaths.

    Example:

    A person sets a fire in a crowded nightclub and, in the ensuing race to the exits, two girls are trampled to death. The fire was relatively small and was actually extinguished quite easily, injuring no one.

    Under Dartagnan's logic, the person who set the fire should not be held responsible for the resulting deaths, because it was actually those who did the trampling who were at fault.

    I hope that the law would recognize that the arsonist in this example would be culpable for more than just the fire damage to a few curtains.

    I'm not saying that 6 years is fair or unfair, but the call that David Black "didn't kill anyone" just doesn't hold water with me.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
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    Its very simple. This man got caught and was convicted. Any sentence is conditional on the felon's attitude and the law. This issue is a mountain out of a molehill.

    If you can't do the time - don't do the crime. This felon should of thought of that before he broke the law. crying over spilled milk is not going to help the situation either.

    Personally, it sounds like the person acted out of pure boredom and paid the price for not doing something more constructive.

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    If Bill Bodden's accounting of the basic facts of the incident are accurate then the person responsible for those deaths was the girl driving the car, not Mr. Black.

    Ironically, if we shoehorn this incident into DSS's "fire in a crowded nightclub" example then the responsible party would be the Crook County Sheriff whose arrival precipitated the flight for the exits.

  • tyrel s (unverified)
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    [Racist comment removed. -editor.]

  • Jonathan Radmacher (unverified)
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    This post leaves way too many holes. First, while it's pegged as some kind of BM 11 connection, was it actually a BM 11 offense? If it was, instead, an exercise of judicial discretion to impose this sentence, then the grounds for complaint seems pretty thin -- the prosecutor and defense lawyer put on their cases, and the judge imposed the sentence. If the judge acted improperly, the judgment could have been appealed.

    Second, in some respects I assume this reflects a legislative determination that drag racing is so dangerous that it must be harshly punished, as a deterrence. I'm not a huge believer in deterrence, particularly as it relates to crimes of intentional violence. But don't you think that this sentence, and coverage of it, will have a deterrent effect?

    Finally, I think you head down a bad public policy road to identify too closely with either the defendant or the victim. There are all kinds of good reasons why putting a defendant in jail is unfair -- the defendant's perspective; and there are all kinds of reasons why a victim (and/or the victim's family) can argue that the sentence is too lenient. I would hope that legislators and judges step back from both perspectives, not to ignore those perspectives, but to recognize that they are only two pieces of a much bigger policy puzzle.

  • dartagnan (unverified)
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    "Example: A person sets a fire in a crowded nightclub and, in the ensuing race to the exits, two girls are trampled to death. The fire was relatively small and was actually extinguished quite easily, injuring no one. Under Dartagnan's logic, the person who set the fire should not be held responsible for the resulting deaths, because it was actually those who did the trampling who were at fault."

    Bad example. Setting a fire is an act of arson, a serious crime. The only crimes committed by Black were speeding and reckless driving; his connection to the fatal crash was tangential at best. But he ended up getting charged with manslaughter.

    If we're going to start charging, convicting and sentencing people on the basis of what COULD HAVE resulted from their actions, we need to charge everybody who runs a stop sign with manslaughter.

    "Its very simple. This man got caught and was convicted."

    To the simple-minded all things appear simple.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Ironically, if we shoehorn this incident into DSS's "fire in a crowded nightclub" example then the responsible party would be the Crook County Sheriff whose arrival precipitated the flight for the exits.

    Here's another analogy. In a NASCAR race driver A is in the lead, but drivers B and C are tail-gating him. A insists on keeping the lead, but the stress gets the better of him and he crashes and gets killed. Are B and C guilty of manslaughter?

    An acquaintance once told me of how the "law" works in Saudi Arabia. If you ask a taxi driver to take you somewhere and he gets in an accident en route to your requested destination, then you are responsible on the grounds that the taxi driver wouldn't have gotten in that accident if you hadn't asked him to take that route.

    pardon black and blacks! Jo Ann dis is Tyrel ax me about bein black ax me about bein poor. dey wont let me writ 4 bo. dey crackers

    tyler s: We get more than enough bullshit on this web site without you or anyone else adding racist crap.

  • Roy M (unverified)
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    "I will repeat it again: David Black DID NOT KILL ANYONE."

    This is the very reason he received the sentence he did. Intentionally killing these young girls would have resulted in a much longer sentence. He acted recklessly in a manner showing indifference to human life.

    "another young man with a long and serious criminal record who dismembered a Bend woman in a hit-and-run accident, left her body lying in pieces in the road, and then tried to cover up his crime by burning his car got VIRTUALLY THE SAME SENTENCE as David Black"

    You are right, this does seem unjust. The "other young man" should have gone away for a lot longer.

    "But when it gets to the point that the people who actually gave greater responsibility for a crime get lighter sentences than those only peripherally involved, something is definitely wrong".

    I am not defending the decision of the DA to prosecute Mr. Black as much as I am defending the system that we have. It is the best and fairest in the world. There is an opportunity to take responsibility in most criminal cases by accepting a plea bargain. When the choice is made to make your case before the court and/or a jury of your peers it can go only one of two ways. The results are not always perfect, but usually fair. The DA is an elected position. If you don't like the way he/she conducts business, un-elect him or her. Just don't tamper with the system or with M11. Both are working very well.

  • Jason (unverified)
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    David Black was repeatedly offered a deal in which he would have served little or no time. He turned to down, even after being given the chance by the trial judge. His reckless actions cost the lives of two young women. He is not a murderer but if he was he'd be doing 25 years, not 6. If the Gov pardons David Black then all common sense will be gone. A pardon is to right a wrongful conviction. Black just refused to take responsibility...at any stage, and now is actually paying a price. The Bulletin hates Measure 11 even though Oregonians voted for it in 1994 and then rejected repeal led by Jo Ann Bowman by an even greater margin in 2000.

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    Jason, an executive (i.e., presidential/gubernatorial) pardon has literally nothing to do with righting a wrongful conviction. A pardon may (or may not) have that effect, but if so it is purely coincidental.

    This is basic civics.

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    He acted recklessly in a manner showing indifference to human life.

    Be that as it may, acting recklessly in a manner showing indifference to human life also fully describes an individual who knowingly runs a red light, whether that results in anyone being hurt or not.

    You appear to be indirectly suggesting that a sentence of 6 years and 3 months for running a red light would be just.

  • Greg D. (unverified)
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    I am troubled by the fact that a prosecutor can arbitrarily decide to place a defendant into the almost impossible position of either choosing to plead guilty to a crime that the defendant denies committing, or maintaining innocence and going to trial and gambling against a horrific sentence to be imposed under Measure 11 or otherwise. Regardless of whether or not you believe that long sentences are justified for certain crimes, the use of threatened long sentences to coerce a defendant into giving up his right to a jury trial should be frightening.

  • Roy M (unverified)
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    Kevin, not exactly.

    But if someone ran a red light, knowing the light was red but tempted fate anyway, and that action resulted in the death of a person or persons. I might be OK with 6 yrs, 3 mos. However, I would be better with 6 mos and probation if that person were to take some responsibility.

  • dartagnan (unverified)
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    "I am not defending the decision of the DA to prosecute Mr. Black as much as I am defending the system that we have. It is the best and fairest in the world."

    Oh, please. That's not even worthy of a response.

    "His reckless actions cost the lives of two young women."

    No, they didn't. The reckless actions of the driver of the car cost the lives of two young women (the driver and her passenger). Black happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and to run afoul of a DA who was determined to "make an example" of somebody.

    "But if someone ran a red light, knowing the light was red but tempted fate anyway, and that action resulted in the death of a person or persons. I might be OK with 6 yrs, 3 mos."

    If somebody runs a red light and that results in a crash that kills somebody, involuntary manslaughter would be a completely appropriate charge. But the Black case is not analogous. It's more like a case of somebody running a red light and a fatal accident happening half a mile away.

    "Regardless of whether or not you believe that long sentences are justified for certain crimes, the use of threatened long sentences to coerce a defendant into giving up his right to a jury trial should be frightening."

    Exactly. The intent of M11 was to put hardened criminals who commit serious crimes behind bars, not to give DAs a club to hold over people like Black.

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)
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    I don't know enough about the case to comment on Mr. Black's situation directly, but I will say this----stating, as some have in the thread above, that Mr. Black deserves a pardon because others have been sentenced to the same or less sentences for more or greater crimes is a non-starter for me. If anything, I'd be inclined to keep his sentence the same and increase the others---except that our system doesn't mete out sentences that way. It is on an individual basis and everything from race, gender, religion, financial status, disposition/attitude of the accused/DA/judge, and the feelings that the community holds all affect a trial. To roll the dice without being aware that justice may not be served you and that there is more factored in than your actual guilt or innocence is naive at best. It's a shame Mr. Black's attorney did not make this clearer to him. He might have pled out and saved himself some time behind bars.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    David Black and Randall Clifford, who drove the third car in this flight from the sheriff, were doing the same thing up to the point of the fatal crash. Clifford received a lesser sentence because he made a deal with the Deschutes County district attorney on the basis of advice from his lawyer. Black could not be persuaded of being guilty in the death of those two girls and stuck to his conviction. I believe many young people with a strong sense of right and wrong would have done the same thing in refusing to take blame that they didn't believe to be right. That essentially was the only difference between him and Clifford. But Black got 75 months and Clifford got six.

    To repeat a point I made above but seems not to have penetrated the consciousness of some: There but for the grace of God, the gods or chance might we have gone.

  • DSS (unverified)
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    There but for the grace of God, the gods or chance might we have gone.

    Not I, sir.

    When someone next to me gets hit by lightning, or cancer, or a wayward bus, I think "There but for the grace of God..."

    When I see someone in jail because their economic condition tilted them towards unlawful behavior, I think "There but for the grace of God..."

    When I see someone in jail because they failed to have any regard for others' safety or their own simply for a thrill, I think, "Thank God they're no longer on the same roads as my family."

  • Jason (unverified)
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    A pardon is just that. A complete excuse for the conviction. A commutation, also which the Governor can grant, is a reduction of sentence or release on time served. There is a very big difference and nobody seems to be saying Black is innocent. The "there but for the grace of God" argument only works if you too go out and engage in extremely reckless conduct and kill someone. In that sense, yes it could happen to anyone. Anyone who acts like that. DSS is right. That's called equal justice under the law. He wasn't struck by lighning. His recklessnes caused the death of two young women. Most people think he got too little.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    His recklessnes caused the death of two young women.

    It was the panicked state of mind and the reckless driving of the young woman driving the car that crashed that caused the death of these young women. Clifford drove the third car along with Black. He didn't die because he didn't lose control of his car.

    There but for the grace of God, the gods or chance might we have gone. Presumably, this was not the first time Black and others were drag racing without incident. Black's luck ran out when that young woman who lacked the maturity to cope with the situation she was caught in became involved in the race.

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    A pardon is just that. A complete excuse for the conviction.

    Um... no, it's not. It's a vacating of the sentence. It has nothing whatever to say about the conviction or whether said conviction was rightfully decided or not. And, as we saw with Iran/Contra a generation ago, a pardon can be granted preemptively (i.e., prior to any prosecution). Either way, it simply does not have any legal connnection to whether the prosecution it vacates/preemptively blocks was just or not.

    Kulongoski could decide to pardon Mr. Black and it wouldn't have diddly to do with whether Black was rightly convicted or not. It would simply vacate the sentence.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Let's look at this another way. How many of you have made a mistake, especially while driving, such as running a red light or a stop sign and got away without anything happening? If something like that happened to you, then there but for the grace of God, the gods or chance might you have gone.

  • Kija (unverified)
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    I have to laugh at the assertion that our system of justice is the best in the world. Like so many "We're #1" assertions, it has no basis in reality, but in 100% unadulterated American belligerence. I suppose you think we have the best health care system in the world, too.

    We have a justice system that has District Attorneys opposing pardons and vacated sentences for people who have been proven innocent with DNA evidence. We have a justice system wherein our Supreme Court has ruled that innocence is no impediment to a person's execution. We imprison a greater percentage of population than China and we pretend we are a free country.

    But we cannot blame the government, no the fault lies with the viciousness of our citizens who cannot bear to see a soldier's flag-draped coffin but probably would finance our entire state budget on pay-per-view if they could pay to watch executions.

  • Deo Dan (unverified)
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    Posted by: Greg D. | Jan 12, 2009 1:54:51 PM

    I am troubled by the fact that a prosecutor can arbitrarily decide...

    It starts with the police and you are right, the conclusions are disturbing. Kija and MiMi hit the nail on the head. A recent lecture thought it through well, with the conclusion, Don't Talk To the Police!

    Mr. Black could be the prop in that talk.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    We imprison a greater percentage of population than China and we pretend we are a free country.

    And, heaven help them, if they need critical medical care their sentence to prison could eventually prove to be a death sentence.

  • dartagnan (unverified)
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    "The "there but for the grace of God" argument only works if you too go out and engage in extremely reckless conduct and kill someone."

    Sigh. I am going to say it again and I will keep on saying it until it sinks in: DAVID BLACK KILLED NO ONE. I've seen people saying that Black deserves his punishment because he "made a bad decision." Okay, he did. But the driver of the car made the bad decision to race, and THAT decision -- not any decision or action by Black -- killed her and her passenger.

    Also, The Bulletin is not calling for a pardon -- it is calling for a commutation of the sentence. Huge difference. Black does not deserve a pardon, but he already has served too much time in prison.

  • mlw (unverified)
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    A grand jury of 7 members and a trial jury of 12 members thought he was guilty. By his reckless actions, he caused the death of two people. 75 months for two deaths is a joke. Measure 11 doesn't impose draconian sentences. If anything, the sentences are often too light. If people don't like mandatory minimum sentences, why not go to jury sentencing? I can tell that, in 11 years of criminal trial practice, I have never met a trial jury that would not have given at least 10 years to someone who caused the deaths of two people, directly or indirectly, through senselessly reckless driving. The fact that he did not plead guilty just goes to show how little remorse he has for his actions. How do you think the families of the victims feel? They don't get their loved ones back in 75 months.

  • DanK (unverified)
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    Better to have much short sentences where the criminals don't ever associate with or even see anyone else who committed crimes. The one thing our prisons do provide is advanced training in criminality.

    But I disagree with your premise Jo Ann. Six years for doing something stupid and reckless that got two people killed seems light to me. The question is how will he be spending those six years?

    Answer: becoming motivated and informed about new ways to harm society.

    That's the part that needs to change. Our prisons are finishing schools for sociopaths.

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)
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    Let's look at this another way. How many of you have made a mistake, especially while driving, such as running a red light or a stop sign and got away without anything happening?

    Wait, so you're saying that running a stop sign accidentally is the same as consciously engaging in an illegal activity like drag racing? Huh?! Okay, he'd participated multiple times with no issues. So what?! He was knowingly engaging in illegal behaviour.

    And as a matter of fact, I DID run a stop sign once by mistake...new sign, didn't notice it. A cop was right there and ticketed me. I took responsibility for my screwup and paid the fine. If I'd accidentally killed someone that day, I would've probably gone to prison and rightfully so. I'm still culpable even if I didn't mean to do it, even if I wasn't aware I was breaking the law at the time. Which, Mr. Black can't claim. He KNEW he was breaking the law.

    You said it yourself...his luck ran out. He was playing the odds (apparently had been doing so for some time since it sounds like he was a regular in this illegal sport) and it caught up with him. Although I would point out that he had some luck on his side since HE didn't die that day.

  • ws (unverified)
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    I have no idea whether or not he's a democrat, but the DA in the case was District Attorney Mike Dugan. A search brought me to The Source Weekly, and a little info on David Black's story. As some have here on this weblog thread, some of the people commenting to the Source Weekly weblog's opinion piece complain vigorously about The DA's prosecution of David Black.

    The Bend Bulletin allows access to their stories only to subscribers. I'm not subcribing, so that leaves me out unless I can get to the library to search through back issues. I managed to read just one of the Bulletin's stories, 'Six Truly Deadly Drivers', and then it cut me off of further one's.

    According to that story, manslaughter is the charge Black was indited for. mlw's comment (Jan 12, 2009 8:48:33 PM) "A grand jury of 7 members and a trial jury of 12 members thought he was guilty.". Apparently, members of the juries seemed to have concluded that Black killed someone.

    Looking at the Bulletin's 'Six Truly Deadly Drivers' story sidebar, Deschutes County has had its hands full with out of control Drivers. Is there anything to suggest that Dugan hasn't been making a full effort to deal with this problem? The big controversy seems to revolve around the fact that some of the more egregious offenders got off with lighter sentences than David Black did, but is Dugan responsible for those sentences not having been heavier?

  • edison (unverified)
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    Amazingly, few commenters are taking the time to discuss the real issue. Measure 11 isn't working. Jo Ann said it in her post: " ... measure 11 is bad public policy ... ". Dartagnan gets it: " The intent of M11 was to put hardened criminals who commit serious crimes behind bars, not to give DAs a club to hold over people like Black." And Kija nails it: "But we cannot blame the government, no the fault lies with the viciousness of our citizens who cannot bear to see a soldier's flag-draped coffin but probably would finance our entire state budget on pay-per-view if they could pay to watch executions."

  • dartagnan (unverified)
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    "A grand jury of 7 members and a trial jury of 12 members thought he was guilty."

    Wrong. There was no grand jury indictment, and the trial was before a judge, not a jury. When you don't know the facts, don't try to make them up.

    "By his reckless actions, he caused the death of two people."

    Can you, or anybody, please explain to me how David Black "caused the death" of anyone? Did he force anyone to race? Did he compel anyone to speed and drive recklessly?

    Somebody used the analogy of setting a fire in a crowded theater. Here's what I think is a better analogy: Five kids are diving off a bridge into a river -- a dangerous, dumb, and illegal activity. Four of the kids do it without injury. The fifth kid hits his head on a submerged rock, fractures his skull and dies. Do you charge the four other kids with manslaughter?

    According to the "logic" used by defenders of the David Black sentence, you have to.

  • Jonathan Radmacher (unverified)
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    edison, you say that the point is that Measure 11 isn't working. What reason do you have to believe that this case is really about Measure 11 at all? Are you saying that the sentence was the minimum required by law, so the judge had no discretion?

  • ws (unverified)
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    "Five kids are diving off a bridge into a river -- a dangerous, dumb, and illegal activity. Four of the kids do it without injury. The fifth kid hits his head on a submerged rock, fractures his skull and dies. Do you charge the four other kids with manslaughter?" dartagnan

    If it were known in advance by the kids involved, that this was a possible penalty for that kind of activity, maybe so. That's a good question relative to the street racing incident. Did those kids know in advance, the penalty they were risking? So, it was a judge, and not a jury that decided Black was guilty? Either way, Black was still found to be guilty as charged.

    mlw: What about your statement: "A grand jury of 7 members and a trial jury of 12 members thought he was guilty." Care to elaborate on that?

  • dartagnan (unverified)
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    "That's a good question relative to the street racing incident. Did those kids know in advance, the penalty they were risking?"

    I doubt they ever imagined they would be charged with manslaughter. I've never heard of anybody being charged with manslaughter for street racing, which is all Black was doing. Charge him with reckless driving and speeding, yes. Throw the book at him. Take away his license, hit him with a heavy fine, maybe some jail time. But a manslaughter charge was WAAAAAY over the top, since his car was not involved in the fatal crash and, in fact, he had stopped racing before the crash even happened.

    And I'm still waiting for somebody to explain exactly how Black "caused" the death of those two girls.

    "Either way, Black was still found to be guilty as charged."

    Yes, he was. It was the charge itself that was inappropriate.

  • Kija (unverified)
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    A few years back there was a television program that actually showed jury deliberations. It would have been an eye-opener except that I already served on a jury and discovered how completely idiotic our "peers" can be with their assumptions that the person arrested must be guilty or he never would have been arrested in the first place. Even saying, "well, even if he didn't do this, he's obviously a criminal or the police would never have looked at him in the first place." The Innocence Project has shown that many, many innocent people get convicted, so a jury's decision is not necessarily writ from God. Moreover, you do not have to be the person who commits an act to get convicted of that crime. You just need to be part of the group. You can even be an unwitting participant and be charged.

  • Roy M (unverified)
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    Amazingly, few commenters are taking the time to discuss the real issue. Measure 11 isn't working. Jo Ann said it in her post: " ..

    Wow! talk about posting without any real facts. The State vs Black or the DA making a decision to prosecute Black may be an issue worth discussing, but I would urge all to look at the well documented successful results of M11 before passing judgement on a law they know little about.

    And just a note about the Innocence Project. Big dif between someone wrongly convicted and someone in the community who you think deserves a break.

  • mlw (unverified)
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    Perhaps I was mistaken about the juries, but my point remains. To be tried for a felony, a person must either be indicted by a grand jury or voluntarily waive grand jury. A grand jury is composed of 7 members of the community. Similarly, at trial, a defendant in a felony case must be convicted by a jury of 12 people (10 must agree) of the crime, unless he voluntarily waives that right. So, I stand by my principle - if he wasn't indicted and convicted by juries, it was his own choice. Just as it was his own choice to engage in the reckless conduct that killed two people.

    Look if you don't like Measure 11, fine - sponsor a measure to repeal it and see how many votes it gets. But don't ignore the facts - it remains popular with a majority of voters. It may or may not have caused a reduction in violent crime, but it does correspond with a reduction in violent crime.

  • dartagnan (unverified)
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    "Just as it was his own choice to engage in the reckless conduct that killed two people."

    Sigh. Here we go again.

    Yes, David Black's conduct was reckless. But how did his conduct kill anybody? Unless you can answer that question rationally your argument is meaningless.

    David Black's conduct killed nobody. The reckless conduct of the girl driving the car that was involved in the fatal crash killed two people.

    But I can see we have two camps of people here -- one camp that understands the point that the punishment should be appropriate to the actual crime, and the other that adheres to the doctrine that, "Well, he did a crime, so whatever they did to him, he had it coming."

    It's futile to try to make those in the second camp understand those in the first camp, so I give up.

  • Roy M (unverified)
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    Dartagnan, it may have helped the cause of Mr Black among posters had his case not been so transparently exploited here for the real purpose of wanting to re-define or change M-11. Ms Bowman's last three paragraphs clearly reveal the real intent of her post, and it has little to do with David Black. I give you kudos though for speaking up for the underdog.

  • dartagnan (unverified)
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    Thanks, Roy. I happen to think M11 is not a bad law per se, but it holds the potential for abuse.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    These are statements made by the (Bend) Bulletin it its series on David Black's trial and sentence:

    "Still, a Deschutes County grand jury indicted both Clifford and Black on a number of counts, the most serious of which related to Beeksma's death."

    "This argument (by DA Dugan regarding Black's culpability) persuaded Deschutes County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Titkin, who presided over Black's trial and later sentenced him with great reluctance. (My emphasis)

  • snincoclata (unverified)
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    I think you are thinking like sukrat, but I think you should cover the other side of the topic in the post too...

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