Monday, June 30, 2008

Kill a cyclist, get 10 years probation

The prosecutor's office has reached a deal with cyclist killer Erika Hanson. (You may recall that last October, she plowed her Hummer into cyclist Sarah Howard at an intersection. Sarah was stopped in the bike lane, waiting for a green light.) Hanson will lose her driving privileges and get 10 years of probation for killing our sister cyclist Sarah.

Statesman coverage HERE.

Are you outraged? If not, should you be?

I penned this letter to Judge Mike Wetherell, who would've handled the case. I copied the Prosecutor's Office ( I don't know if it's a done deal already - I'm not an attorney. But I needed to voice my opinion on what I see as a clear miscarriage of justice.

Dear Judge Wetherell:

(I'm just guessing on your email address; I hope this message gets to you.)

I am writing about a case that was set to be handled in your court.

On October 19, 1997, Sarah Howard was stopped on her bicycle at an Overland Road intersection, waiting for the red light to turn green. She was doing everything right.

Meanwhile, Erika Hanson was approaching from behind in her Hummer H3. For whatever reason, she left her traffic lane, out of control, and straddled the bike lane, her right wheels on the sidewalk. Cyclist Howard probably never knew what hit her. Her body was thrown into the middle of the intersection by the force of the impact.

Hanson's attorney and the Prosecutor's Office (their website header says, "Working for You!") have reached an agreement that Sarah Howard's life was worth 365 days of "house arrest" and 10 years of probation. (And loss of driving privileges.)

In this citizen's viewpoint, that sends a rather disturbing message: Kill a cyclist with your car, and we'll not be too harsh on you.

I'm not an attorney and I don't know much about what happens now. What I'm wondering is... since the prosecutor's office is apparently not going to advocate on behalf of Ms. Howard AND ALL CYCLISTS, is there anything you can do, as the judge, on our behalf?

I want citizens to see that the law (which states that cyclists have a right to use the roadways) is backed up by the law! And if you operate your vehicle in a way that endangers cyclists - and pedestrians, other motorists, motorcycle and scooter riders, etc. - you will be held accountable. I certainly am not seeing that in the "plea agreement" that appears to be on the table.

Like Sarah Howard, I'm an enthusiastic bicycle commuter. Have been since 1986. And frankly, today I feel less safe on the roadways of Ada County, than I did yesterday. Thanks to our Prosecutor's office. I'm hoping you can be a little more justice-minded.


Steve Hulme
Lifelong Boise Citizen

Previous coverage HERE.


Anonymous said...

Great letter, and thanks for it. I'll be penning my own, and look forward to reading any response you may receive.

Anonymous said...

Just noticed your date: 1997. A decade off.

db said...

Yeah, I saw that this morning and now I have this persistent headache and a white, blinding rage.

How does someone get to file an Alford plea in a plea agreement? That's INSANE. The defendant is basically admitting that the state could get a conviction if the case went to trial.

The prosecutor's not doing his/her job.

Bikeboy said...

Dang it! (On the 10-year brain freeze!)

Anonymous said...

I agree that the prosecutor is not doing his job of protecting the citizens of Ada county.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the prosecutor was concerned about the defendant possibly being acquitted if the case had gone to trial. Despite what seems to be a strong case, juries have been known to do strange things (eg. OJ Simpson).

If the case had gone to trial the jury probably would not have contained any cyclists as they would have been challenged during the voir dire process. Any jury so composed might have been swayed by creative defense arguements.

Perhaps the Alford plea has more to do with any upcoming civil trial than anything else.

Anonymous said...

The comments on the Idaho Statesman article, of which there are many, are overwhelmingly in agreement with us. That's refreshing. One person told me she thought the sentence would be appropriate just for driving a Hummer!