I write in response to the April 25 article, “Man has sentence reduced for drunken driving deaths.”
Many people drive drunk but, by luck or fate, avoid this type of incomprehensible tragedy. And that's why the original 20-year sentence was appropriate.
One aspect of the story left completely unexplained is that the sentence was reduced because Kevin Coffay’s original sentence was used to send a message. Isn't that a critical component of punishment? Through its criminal sentencing structure, society makes judgments about the extent to which conduct is condoned in a community. The stiffer the sentence, the more we send the message to others that the conduct is reprehensible and won't be tolerated.
There are other aspects to sentencing too — incapacitation, rehabilitation, vengeance, just treatment of the offender — but have we really arrived at the point where general deterrence plays no role whatsoever?
If we want to condone drunken driving, then an eight-year sentence (making Coffay eligible for parole a year from now) for killing three people and leaving the scene is acceptable, I suppose.
But if we want to change the attitude that drinking and driving is acceptable behavior, then the original sentence seems more than justified.
And by the way, how is the killing of another person not classified as a violent crime? Not a specific intent crime — alright — but not violent?
Brad Weinsheimer, Silver Spring