I consider 6th Judicial District Judge Jeffrey Wilson to be fair; however, I am deeply disappointed at the recent sentence for drunken driver Paul ONeil. Sixty days in jail is such an insult to victims injured by drunken drivers.
From all reports (Herald, Feb. 11), it is clear that Lulu Mae Hess life will never be the same. As a trauma specialist, I know that people do not recover easily from extreme trauma. Besides the obvious physical injury after being run over by a car, intensive care, months in a rehabilitation center and loss of independence, there may be emotional trauma and damage to the nervous system in store for this formerly strong 82-year-old local ranching woman.
As a certified addictions counselor, I can guarantee that ONeils blood-alcohol level indicates that he did not have just a couple of beers as implied by his defense attorney. His behavior was typical of someone drunk behind the wheel of a vehicle. While Hess granddaughter and onlookers frantically banged on the car and screamed at ONeil, he continued backing, his drunken state making him unaware of the life he was changing forever.
Former state Sen. Jim Dyers display of solidarity with defendant ONeil was especially disturbing. Dyer used his positions of command and authority wearing his Marine Corps emblem and presenting a letter written on state Senate stationary to urge the court to minimize the public and private harm caused by ONeil. The U.S. Marines would never tolerate drunken driving in military maneuvers, so why would former Marine Dyer trust ONeil on his flank?
No jail term is ever going to restore Hess to her previous quality of life. This does not excuse Judge Wilson from imposing a sentence proportionate to the crime. He could have imposed up to a year in jail, and he failed to do so. ONeil, in a stupor, sentenced Lulu Mae Hess to loss of quality of life for possibly all of her remaining life. Wilson, stone sober, sentenced ONeil to a mere 60 days in jail. The justice system failed this crime victim miserably.
Ruby Jo Walker, Durango