As the ruling from the grand jury was handed down yesterday and news spread through the country via social media, a very dark confirmation of what I already knew was hammered home. I pray to God that I, nor anyone I love, ever faces a jury of my “peers”.
The legal system is flawed. Everybody and their mother, white, black, brown, poor, rich, you name it, everybody knows that. Unfortunately these flaws extend well beyond the matter of police brutality, corrupt judges, and incompetent lawyers and prosecutors. These flaws lie directly in front of us. We, as citizens of this country, are the flaw.
We live in a world where people don’t care about facts. We live in a world where people think that because they have an opinion, and only because they have an opinion, their opinion is valid, and must be respected. We live in a world where people no longer use facts to form an opinion, rather they form an opinion and then filter through the facts, selecting only the ones that help validate their opinion.
Just last night I read someone say that Twitter is a place for, “Spouting s**t without having a clue but standing strongly behind your opinion.” Sadly that quote rings so ever true. People form completely ignorant, uninformed, uneducated opinions, and then, even in the face of cold hard fact refuting their opinion, stand “strongly behind” their views that have no actual footing. That’s beyond pathetic. I don’t think there’s a word to accurately articulate just how wrong, and irresponsible, and, again, I’m running out of words, how just plain sad and pitiful such an attitude is.
But unfortunately we live in a world where everybody gets a trophy, everybody gets a handout, and as such, we’re to treat these opinions with the same respect we treat those from individuals who have put a great deal of thought into theirs. Talk about a sad commentary on society.
But it goes beyond just that. Oh, it gets deeper, and uglier.
There are people who, to this day, think Tony Stewart should be charged with a crime. However, when asked what crime that should be, the varying answers reads like Michael Vick trying to explain Jon Gruden’s playbook.
There’s the fifteen year old girl crowd who is screaming, “Tony Stewart should be charged with something”. Only, when you ask them what you think he should be charged with, they respond with, “…….”, followed by a blank stare, followed by the chirping of crickets. When you ask again, this time they may find actual words to respond with, such as, “I don’t know, but, but, but, he needs to be charged with something”. You can almost see them stammering around stomping their feet in the ground with their hands on their hips.
You see people trying to find Stewart culpable, saying, he’s the cause of death. When you remind them that Kevin Ward walking down the track is the cause, they try to get cute and technical, and argue that the car Tony Stewart driving hitting Ward was the actual CAUSE of death. I even saw one person use the term “legally”. That’s funny, the official cause of death was “blunt force trauma to the head”. I’m sorry, I’m missing where Tony Stewart’s name is mentioned there. But yes, tell me more about how “legally” Stewart is the cause of death. Oh, I get it, we’re allowed to say Stewart’s car making contact with him is what caused the blunt trauma, but we can’t say Ward coming down the track is what caused Stewart’s car to him. Right. Don’t hold that man accountable for his actions.
Then there’s the crowd that thinks they’re a lawyer. They like to throw terms around like “involuntary manslaughter”, or “vehicular homicide”. You might even come across someone who tries to find a definition of involuntary manslaughter. They might even try to find one for involuntary vehicular manslaughter. Of course, we’ll just ignore the fact that they provide a generic definition, without actually paying attention to the laws of the particular state they want this charge to be handed down in.
Was Tony Stewart in a car? Did someone die? Was it involuntary? One could reasonably say yes to each of these things. Fortunately, most states require you to come with a wee bit more before convicting a man of such a crime. But don’t tell that to the 1.2 million Harvard Law graduates running around these streets.
Let’s also forget that in New York, it’s considered manslaughter in the second degree. But, hey, don’t tell all these lawyers that while they’re throwing around charges like, “involuntary vehicular homicide”. Yes, let’s charge Tony Stewart with a charge, that in the state of New York, doesn’t even exist. Brilliant.
But for the sake of argument, let’s pretend for a second that these future Johnny Cochrans actually knew what charge they were trying to suggest Stewart should have brought against him. So, they want to convict Tony Stewart of second degree vehicular manslaughter. Okay. Well prove it.
And no, “He was driving a car and even though it was involuntary, someone died”, doesn’t cut it. At least not in New York. Yeah, remember that tidbit, he state where this actually happened?
To be convicted of second degree vehicular manslaughter you must be found to have committed second degree manslaughter while operating a vehicle. Let’s concede he was operating a vehicle, we can all agree on that part of the story. So let’s shift our attention to what one must actually do to commit second degree manslaughter. Per the laws as they are written in the state of New York:
A person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when: 1. He recklessly causes the death of another person; or 2. He commits upon a female an abortional act which causes her death, unless such abortional act is justifiable pursuant to subdivision three of section 125.05; or 3. He intentionally causes or aids another person to commit suicide.
I think it’s safe to rule out number two, and considering intent on Kevin Ward’s behalf would have to be proven to make number three applicable, we can rule that one out as well. So, we’ll focus on the first one, recklessly causing the death of another person.
This is where it gets messy. And this is where I start praying that nobody I care anything about ever faces a jury that includes these people on it.
Is one allowed to be of the opinion that Stewart acted recklessly, even if void of intent, and that’s what contributed to the death of Kevin Ward? Absolutely. Nobody is saying you can’t think that. Granted, the facts presented in this case (more on those later) make such an assumption an awful big leap, and requires a great deal of speculation, and an even more dangerous game of trying to assume the intentions of another person. But, at the end of the day, you’re allowed to have that opinion.
Of course, convictions aren’t supposed to be doled out on, “opinions”. Oh, right, that. That, “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” thing that gets in the way of people’s thirst for blood. Thinking Tony Stewart acted recklessly and proving it are two different things. This is where people’s inability to differentiate in fact and opinion comes back into play. Opinions are fine in discussions. Facts are necessary in court rooms.
There are no facts to state Stewart acted recklessly. In fact, there aren’t even facts to prove that he could have even done anything different to avoid what happened. But hey, don’t let facts get in the way of those opinions people. And for God’s sake, don’t you dare let those facts get in the way of you wanting a conviction for a man based on your assumptions and opinions, that, simply put, cannot, in any way, be proven.
Of course, in addition the 1.2 million lawyers now running around, there are an additional 1.2 million sprint car drivers as well.
“Of course he saw him”.
“He had plenty of time to react”.
“Why’d he hit the gas then, huh?”
“He didn’t know he was there, right, like his crew chief on the radio couldn’t tell him?”
I’ll admit, I was a part of this crowd at first too. I made these assumptions. I asked these questions. Then I waited for answers from people who had them.
The people who had them being experts at accident reconstruction, people who know as much about physics as Sheldon Cooper. The people who had the answers being people who have driven sprint cars. Better than that, people who were driving sprint cars that night, at that track, in those conditions. And even better than that, people who were driving sprint cars that night, at that track, in those conditions, directly in front of, and directly behind Tony Stewart.
And yet there are people who the only time they’ve ever even seen a sprint car was the grainy video of the accident, that are saying such witnesses are unreliable. They’re questioning their testimony, while, being “strongly behind” their opinion that is based on………….. right, absolutely nothing.
And they want to convict a man over this. Again, please keep them off any jury anyone I know is ever tried by.
To prove Tony Stewart acted recklessly, you must first prove Tony Stewart even saw him there. That alone is next to impossible. Secondly, you must prove he saw him there in time to either a) avoid him, or b) choose to do something out of the ordinary that would be deemed reckless that resulted in the loss of a life.
A D.A. in New York couldn’t even convince a grand jury there was even a CHANCE such proof could be found. But don’t tell that to all the Harvardites. They have their opinion based solely on a grainy video that they saw, with no working knowledge of the conditions in the car, the visibility, or even how a sprint car operates. Like, did you know, for a sprint car to turn left, the direction Stewart needed to turn to avoid this kid running at him, you have to, wait for this part…… hit the gas. As I mentioned, I was a part of this crowd myself. The revving of the engine seemed damning to me. But I let people who know far more about these things than I explain things, and when they did, I listened. And my tune changed.
We’re going to just look over the whole issue of it being determined that Stewart never wrecked Ward in the first place, that Stewart basically had zero way of knowing Ward even had wrecked, or that, with that understanding, and the testimony of other drivers as to the visibility that night, Stewart had no more than 1.5 seconds from the time he saw Ward to the point of impact to make any decisions. Because at this point, that just seems like piling on a bit.
So, the, “Look at Tony Stewart’s past” crowd, they too have lost their leg to stand on. Does Tony Stewart have a history of showcasing a short temper? Absolutely. Except, if Stewart and Ward’s cars never even made contact, as Stewart was passing Kevin Ward, exactly what was Stewart even mad about? Again, carry on with the narrative you want to tell, and continue forth ignoring important bits of information that nullify your argument. You’re right though, Tony Stewart was mad because he passed a car. Because that’s all we can know he knew of Kevin Ward. That he passed him.
The only “facts” that anyone actually has are that Kevin Ward was impaired by marijuana. This alone, is a reprehensible act, and if anyone involved that night did anything recklessly, it’s the man who drove a racecar while impaired. He risked the lives of every safety worker and every other driver out there that night. The only other “fact” we have is that Kevin Ward came down the track to approach Tony Stewart’s moving racecar. An act so egregious that rules were put in place across the country, to the highest level of motorsports in this country, because of the recklessness of the actions of Kevin Ward. If Kevin Ward doesn’t get out of that car and walk down the track, none of this happens. And that, that you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
But it makes perfect sense that Ward’s parents are still suggesting attention should be focused on the actions of Stewart, though, we don’t know what “actions” they’re actually referring to, while nobody should be focusing on the actions of their son, whose actions were pretty cut and dry. With Ward’s parents, there’s still the grieving parent aspect to it, so maybe, just maybe, there’s some understanding there. That said, you’re still accountable for the words that come out of your mouth. All the time. But I guess with the way they don’t think Kevin Ward should be held accountable, they probably don’t think they should either. What’s disheartening though is the number of people without the grieving parent card at their disposal who are still making excuses for Ward, and casting blame on Stewart. Again, no accountability in this coddled, weak, society.
If you think Tony Stewart acted recklessly, or in the least, didn’t do enough to avoid this accident, that’s fine. You’re absolutely entitled to think that. But if you think, that in light of the evidence and testimony that was provided, that you can prove this beyond any reasonable doubt, then you are, and I have zero issue saying this, an idiot. It’s a shame that someone’s life may one day be placed in your hands, on the grounds that you one day learn the difference in opinions and facts.
It’s a messed up scary world indeed.