Saturday, July 28, 2007

A tragic mistake... Not a criminal offense.

Read this...

I've been thinking about this very subject a lot over the last couple of days. Mainly because of a recent local news story- a Bay Area dad drove to work and forgot that he had his 11 month old son in the car with him... Instead of dropping the baby at day care, he went straight to work. Tragically the baby died in the overheated car. The dad was arrested and charged with felony involuntary manslaughter.

I struggle with the idea of charging this dad with a crime. I realize that it seems unthinkable that you could forget your own child, but honestly- I understand how it could happen.

I often find myself driving on "autopilot". I miss an exit because I forgot that I was driving to church and instead, by habit, I start driving to the kid's school, which is one exit further.

Am I distracted? Probably. Am I overly tired? Definitely.

I specifically remember one day shortly after Young Son was born. I was loading Teenage Son (then 5 years old) and Teenage Daughter (then age 3) into the minivan. I don't even remember where we were going. But I remember that when I opened the sliding side door to load the kids in- I saw the rear facing infant seat and suddenly remembered that Young Son was still in his crib in the house.

And here's the kicker- it's not just that I forgot to get the baby. For a moment, I forgot that I even had a new baby!

In my defense, I was definitely sleep deprived. In addition (yet unrealized by myself) I was jaundicing and would be admitted to the hospital shortly thereafter for emergency gall bladder surgery... I am not ditsy and am very organized when it comes to my kids. I am in fact, a bit of a control freak, and am extremely detail oriented- especially details like how many children I have.

By the grace of God- I never forgot my baby in a car. But I could have.

I don't know what the solution is. Education? More rest? Some sort of vehicle warning system?

All I know is that my heart goes out to that Dad. Not only has his family been shattered by tragedy, but he now faces felony charges. There are lots of real criminals out there. Let's focus our resources on catching them...

Because parents who make mistakes (even ones with tragic consequences) aren't criminals.


MLove said...


I agree with you on this one. Plus, I believe that arresting and charging the parent after such a tragedy constitutes double jeopardy. No trial, no prison bars could add any burden to the person who will agonize for the rest of his/her life because of the horrible mistake.

Christy said...

That is a hard one. I forgot my baby in the car once, but not for long. I went to the grocery store and took her, and my two older kids stayed home with their dad so they could get ready for bed. I took her into the store, but when I got home, I unloaded the groceries and left her sleeping in the back seat. My husband jokingly said, "Did you forget Audrey?" But I really had!