by Victor Davis Hanson // PJMedia
Every once in a while, a criminal case — consider the O.J. trial — reflects the immoral course of our current trajectory. Here is an ongoing local criminal case that pretty much sums up what is happening to our culture, laws, and society at large.
Perla Ibeth Vazquez, 27, is now on trial in these parts. On Oct. 21, 2011 (a mere two-and-a-half-years ago?), she was drunk, drove, and killed, according to the Fresno Bee , one “Frank Winslow, 54, a family man and truck driver for Foster Farms who was only a few miles from home when he was killed on Highway 168 near Ashlan Avenue.”
The Bee added that the local prosecutor, Steven Wright:
[L]aid the groundwork by telling the jury that Vazquez had pleaded guilty to drunken driving in Tulare County in 2006 and again in Fresno County in 2010. Each time, a judge warned her that if she got drunk and killed someone, she could be charged with murder, Wright said.
Should we laugh or cry at those long-ago judicial “each time” warnings — given that they assumed that two felony drunk driving convictions were not necessarily reason to think there would be a fated third or fourth? A judge warns her about her own murdering to come? Might he have warned all of us about being her murdered victims to come? He is warning her of consequences, but not us of our shared danger of having her on the streets? Can we not have an Amber Alert when serial drunk drivers are cut loose?
Some of you are wondering how someone, who in the last eight years has been convicted of two DUIs, can still be on the road. Brace yourself. The truth gets worse in our current lawless society that has become a veritable Road Warrior apocalyptic nightmare.
The Bee account continues:
Wright also told the jury about another incident. In August 2010, just 11 days after she pleaded guilty to her second DUI, the California Highway Patrol caught Vazquez driving 120 mph on a local highway. Her breath smelled of alcohol, her speech was slurred, and she did poorly on a sobriety test, so the officer arrested her, Wright said. But she was never charged.
At this point, I pose the following questions to readers. What would happen to any of you if you were pulled over going 120 mph, following two prior DUI convictions? And what would happen if you “did poorly on a sobriety test”? And what does that mush-mouth word “poorly” mean? Flunked? Sort of flunked? Kinda flunked? Jails are too crowded for those who don’t pass out?
So she was arrested on suspicion of her third DUI, and was let go after being arrested noticeably drunk and traveling 120 mph? Whoever dropped the case should be summarily put on leave, given that he or she is directly responsible for the subsequent death of Mr. Winslow — after Ms. Vazquez had been convicted of prior DUIs, warned by a judge, and then not charged after hitting 120 mph. (How does one manage to reach 120 mph with today’s cars on public roads while inebriated? How did the Highway Patrol catch her?)
Unfortunately, reader, it gets worse still, as every therapeutic trope of a sick society is soon invoked in her defense. The Bee story continues:
In defending Vazquez, DeOcampo told the jury that his client was a hard worker and had a job before her arrest in connection with Winslow’s death. He also said Vazquez was an alcoholic, an addiction that came from being molested as a child by a baby-sitter and a feeling of being unloved by a stepfather.
So here is her defense against the charge of vehicular murder:
She had a job once. Apparently, being employed is now not normally expected, but so aberrant to the degree that it counts as a plus in our current culture where millions have ceased working.
Then we hear that she is an alcoholic. But what does “is an alcoholic” mean versus “drinks whenever she wishes and gets into a car”?
Apparently that fact of drinking alcohol to excess is not a personal pathology for which she is morally culpable, but more an “addiction.” But it is not even an addiction, given that she was not responsible for drinking herself into a stupor, getting into a car, and serially speeding, knocking cars about as she went.
Note: I forgot to mention that she was facing still more pending charges and apparently out on bail at the very moment when she killed Mr. Winslow. So to the Bee:
She also is charged with drunken driving, hit and run and driving on a suspended license for an incident that happened July 9, 2011, just three months before the fatal collision that claimed Winslow’s life. Wright contends Vazquez was drunk when she hit two parked cars on Maple Avenue near Herndon Avenue.
Maple near Herndon is not far from where about 90 days later she killed Mr. Winslow.
I conclude that she had two DUIs (2006 and 2010), one let-go at 120 mph (2010), and got arrested in a fourth incident for hitting parked cars while drunk (2011). The prosecutor and/or judge in that latter case also should be held accountable, given that he let back onto the street a known DUI offender with two priors and a pending third.
Let us return to the extenuating circumstances: in addition to Ms. Vazquez’s addiction, you must understand that she was (a) molested and (b) suffered from a “feeling” of being unloved and (c) had a stepfather. Note that she and her attorney so far adduced no proof for any of these mea culpas, and her attorney seems to assume that millions of others likewise could claim in extremis that they were unloved and/or had stepfathers and thus have extenuating circumstances when they kill and maim others. It is now the sort of stock defense that at some point must have worked to be so frequently emulated.
I am afraid it gets still worse. She is supposedly not guilty of vehicular murder for another reason as well. The way in which her driving killed Mr. Winslow was, well, just “negligent.” Let her attorney, Mr. DeOcampo, best explain:
DeOcampo noted that it wasn’t a typical drunken-driving collision in which two motorists slam head-on into each other or one motorist “gets T-boned.” Instead, Vazquez’s car hit the driver’s side rear tire of the Jeep, causing Winslow to lose control.
I am sure that Mr. Winslow’s family is relieved that he was not killed by a head-on or a “T-bone,” but merely rear-ended down a hill.
Do you doubt that fable that she was merely negligent? Here is her attorney’s final proof:
“She thought she was able to drive,” DeOcampo told the jury. “She wasn’t driving reckless. [sic — VDH] She wasn’t running red lights or speeding.”
I accept that lawyers lie, fantasize, and deceive to help their clients; but DeOcampo’s arguments are insulting to any thinking person. Consider his perverse logic: Ms. Vazquez thinks she is sober; she thinks she is not driving “reckless” (sic); and proof of all that is she killed Winslow without running red lights or speeding (=120 mph as is her past custom).
Therefore Ms. Vasquez was merely “negligent” (= 2 past felony DUI convictions, plus 1 120-mph escapade for which she was not charged, plus another pending DUI count of ramming cars). I guess inattentiveness happens — despite the fact that when she killed Mr. Winslow her license was suspended, and despite the fact that she also just happened to leave the scene of the accident and worried little whether Mr. Winslow was dying or dead after his Jeep flipped down the embankment:
In opening statements, both sides agreed that Vazquez had a blood-alcohol of .13 — which is over the .08 legal limit to drive — when she rear-ended Winslow’s Jeep Wrangler. The Jeep ran down an embankment and rolled several times, causing Winslow to suffer fatal injuries. Vazquez left the scene before she was caught near the Shaw Avenue exit.
Let me translate the journalese: Ms. Vazquez, without a valid driver’s license, drinks herself into a stupor, then, for the fourth time that law enforcement knows of, gets into a car drunk and drives (but not “reckless” (sic), because she avoids head-ons), then hits Mr. Winslow on his way home, sends him down an embankment to die, and flees the scene of an accident — and we are lectured about her unloving stepfather and an addiction.
I don’t know what or who is sicker, Ms. Vazquez, or the prosecutors who long ago let her off drunk after speeding at 120 mph, or the defense attorney who calls all this “negligence,” or the society that has created a host of extenuating circumstances that can be adduced on any occasion to nullify consequences of our behavior, or the general callousness and indifference we allow for such a repeat offender to be back on the streets to kill and maim.
I do know that this is not aberrant. For anyone who reads this: we all could become Mr. Winslows today with the full assurance that the capital and labor of our society will be heavily invested in seeing that the convicted DUI driver who kills us has had plenty of prior opportunity to practice his craft, that driving drunk at 120 mph is not necessarily reason to be charged with a crime, and that when our killers face possible consequences they will claim that their addictions were caused by unloving stepfathers and perverted babysitters, and will more likely have their personnel stories aired than will the deceased and innocent.
We live in a deeply diseased society in which we care little about the victim and a great deal about the perpetrators. As the trial continues, we no doubt will soon hear that somehow Mr. Winslow was at fault, that for all the past restrictions and punishments given Ms. Vasquez she did not comply with many if any of them, and that there were probably even more drunk-driving incidents than the four reported. We are also going to hear all sorts of fables of what a good person she really is. Just wait.
In this regard, we are about to witness a legal circus, not a military tribunal, for a terrorist killer and Benghazi architect of the murders of four Americans.
We worry so much about poor Mr. Bergdahl, hardly at all about those lost or maimed trying to find him, or those who were similarly injured or killed trying to arrest the five Taliban killers we freed for Bergdahl, and nothing at all for the thousands that the five have killed or the myriads whom they may well kill again. Thinking of all of them wins us no psychological recompense in the way our cheap sympathy for Bergdahl does.
Ditto poor Lois Lerner, whom some on the left have portrayed as a victim. Not a word about the hundreds of lives made wretched by her imperious witch-hunts and audits.
Not a word about the legal immigrants who cannot enter the U.S., given the illegal aliens who cut in front of their line. We hear so much about the 90,000 children who were sent into the U.S., but nothing about the callousness of their parents, the conniving of their home governments, a deceitful Mexico that facilitated their transit, the Obama administration that vies for their political allegiance, or lots of killers and criminals who will enter the U.S. while the Border Patrol is distracted and busy as a social welfare agency.
A sign of a sick society is its cheap empathy and caring for the present, and its utter indifference to the past and future. We never much cared about the havoc that Ms. Vasquez did in the past and did not worry about the obvious trajectory of her future — so a judge lectured, a prosecutor dropped a case, and others let her out shortly before she did the same thing that she always had done.
We only know all that Ms. Vazquez is merely “negligent” because while being plagued with an addiction and still reeling from an unloving stepfather and a child molestation allegation, she killed a man with her car and fled the scene, though she only killed him by rear-ending him and thus was not “reckless” in doing so.
Anyone in law enforcement or the criminal justice bureaucracy could have long ago predicted Ms. Vazquez’s rendezvous with Mr. Winslow. He remains a forgotten victim that the state spent not a dime on, and who is now mute while Ms. Vazquez and her lawyer lecture us about “T-boning,” “addictions” and “stepfathers” — and slamming into and sending a Jeep down an embankment as proof of not being murderous.
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