Friend pleads guilty to 4 counts of drunk driving causing death: do you write a reference letter?

If a friend of yours pled guilty to four counts of drunk driving causing death, and two counts of drunk driving causing bodily harm, would you write a letter of reference to the court?

Based on a case that’s happening in Canada.

Young man, member of a wealthy family, goes to Miami for an extended stag party; comes home by private jet, drinking en route; gets in his car at the airport; hits a van with a family; kills 3 kids under 6 and their grandad; seriously injures two other people in the van.

He pleads out to all six counts and is awaiting sentencing. As part of the sentencing submission, his lawyer has filed 92 letters of reference from family and friends, including his parish priest.

Marco Muzzo apologizes, but victims’ family not ready:

You provided as fact the drunken driving incident, and then just statements from friends. If the friends’ assessment is correct and this was anomalous behavior I might write a reference.

Nope. Someone who does something like that is not my friend. I’ve lost family to drunk drivers and witnessed lethal accidents. Zero tolerance. No excuses.

No way in hell. He CHOSE to get behind the wheel after drinking, which means he has abysmal judgement, is totally self-centered and indifferent to how his actions affect others, or both. I’m not going to condone that. My sympathy goes to his victims, who did not CHOOSE to endanger others via self-indulgence.

He’s an adult, right? Or whatever legal age in Canada was at the time of the accident?

I’d be willing to talk about the remorse he’s shown and the efforts he plans to make by way of restitution. I would be willing to advance arguments that there might be a more useful solution than putting him in jail. But I don’t see that it’s relevant that he was a nice kid who helped his neighbor.

A reference letter intended to reduce his sentence? No. He killed 3 children. He should spend as many years in prison as the years he stole from that family (~250, give or take). If my own *incredibly *beloved husband did this, we would get divorced.

It depends upon what that letter is expected to achieve. I wouldn’t write it to try to get a reduction in sentence. If it was a close friend I’d maybe write it to give the Court a “more rounded” account of that friend.

Yes, if it was a one-off, I would write. If he had a history of drink-driving, that would be a different matter.

Turn it around: if you seriously fucked up and it was a one-off, would you hope that your friends would write to the court for you?

So if hed swerved left instead of right, and hit a different car, driven by some friendless old dickhead, hed be punished less?

I’m torn between 2 and 3. I would write a longer letter, but would not suggest leniency. I guess I’ll go with 2, since I would suggest that his confessions be taken into account when sentencing. I don’t think that’s advocating for leniency, but some might. But obviously helping them get a full picture of the situation to make an appropriate punishment is good.

I also would consider myself to be the bad guy if I didn’t try to forgive as much as I have a right to do so. Refusing to forgive is for people you think will do it again–and even then you technically forgive their first action.

I’m watching a situation develop with an acquaintance of mine. He is a “slow” adult guy who gets very drunk very fast very often. He recently served 28 months for an aggravated DUI that was not his first. While in prison he was offered 4 months off in exchange for participation in a program and he turned the offer down. Due to prison crowding he was offered early release in exchange for 5 years probation and he chose to do his full sentence instead. The day of his release he stopped at the bar and was put-off that people weren’t lining up to buy him celebratory drinks. It was awkward.

He had three bud lights the other evening and was shitfaced. The bartender cut him off, freaked out at how drunk he was on just three beers. I talked with him a bit and he smelled of liquor. Apparently he had a flask in his pocket and he was drinking from that in the men’s room.

I offered to drive him home and he scowled at me, telling me he had a car. Someone else told him they just heard there were cops all over doing DUI checks. He ended up disgustedly walking home, but must have doubled back because his car was gone an hour later.

No, I wouldn’t write a letter.

Yes, people get punished for the consequences of their actions. Dumb luck is a part of that.

To answer the OP:

If I wouldn’t have to lie to write the letter (as is implied in “your friend”) I would write a glowing character reference.

I don’t understand the question. What is this letter supposed to accomplish? Whether he was a spoiled rich brat or not, he still committed the same crime. If he committed it because he was spoiled, or because he was depraved, or because he was stupid, should it make any difference?

Having almost died due to a drunk driver, I have pretty strong feelings about this issue. No, I could not write you a letter. You would have my sympathy and best wishes, and possibly even my forgiveness based on your actions following, but no letter, sorry.

Link to the MPSIMS thread: The Most Hated Man in Toronto - You Almost Feel Sorry for Him

Sentencing by the judge is meant to take into account not just the event of the crime, but the personal circumstances of the accused. Does he have a criminal record? Does he have a history of alcohol/drug abuse? Is this conduct out of the ordinary for him, or part of a pattern?

The judge can give as much or as little weight to the letters as she sees fit.

I would write a letter. And it would focus entirely on the damage caused to the victims and their families, the suffering that they endured, and the need for accountability in the sentencing.

I don’t think the defendant would want to present my letter to the judge. The prosecution might if that is permitted.

Is this not the backing of our criminal justice system? It’s not about his intent, it’s about the net societal harm of his actions. 1 count of DUI + 4 counts of vehicular manslaughter (or whatever charge is deemed applicable in that state) are going to result in a more severe sentence than DUI + 1 count. His actions were more harmful in the former case than the latter, even if he couldn’t have known how many occupants were in the car at the time.

I wouldn’t write a reference letter for the man in either case, although I can see the point you’re making. But consider the possibility that he drove drunk and didn’t hit anybody. In that case, of course he’d have been punished less. More likely, he would not even have been caught. People drive drunk every day; most do not cause accidents.

Each of those deaths was also a “one-off.” What, you’re asking for leniency, because it was only the first time he killed four people?