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October 23, 2013

Matthew Cordle to learn his Ohio sentencing fate today ... and student research provides nationwide perspectives

This new AP article, headlined "Victim's daughter to speak at sentencing for Ohio man who confessed in video after fatal crash," reports on some of what can be expected in today's high-profile state sentencing case:

The daughter of a man killed by a drunken driver who later confessed his crime in an online video was expected to offer her first in-depth comments about the impact of the accident on her and her family. Angela Canzani was scheduled to appear Wednesday in Franklin County Court at the sentencing for Matthew Cordle. In a brief TV interview last month, she said Cordle's YouTube confession, viewed more than 2.2 million times, has taken the focus off her father, 61-year-old Vincent Canzani.

Cordle, 22, faces eight years in prison, a $15,000 fine and loss of driving privileges for life. He pleaded guilty last month to aggravated vehicular homicide and driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. His blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit of 0.08.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien is pushing for the maximum, saying Cordle drove that night despite knowing he had a history of blackouts after heavy drinking. O'Brien also says the average sentence for similar crimes in the central Ohio county is about eight years. O'Brien also cites Cordle's refusal to submit to a blood-alcohol test after the accident as justifying the maximum. Prosecutors had to obtain a court order to do the test.

Cordle's attorneys have asked Judge David Fais for a sentence well below the maximum. They say that would send a message about the importance of taking responsibility for a tragedy.... As prosecutors waited for lab results for alcohol and drugs, Cordle decided to forego the usual court process and plead guilty as soon as he was charged. His attorneys agreed with his plan, but against their advice, he also made an online video confessing to the accident.

Meanwhile, as everyone prepares for this real sentencing, nearly 20 students completed research on how they believe the Cordle case could and would be handled in a variety of states around the country.  Three students focused specifically on Ohio, while lots of other states got covered in submissions, too.  I have combined all the submissions in one big (24-page!) Word document for downloading here: 

Download Updated Cordle Multi-State Compilation for Class Blog

UPDATE:  As I think I had roughly predicted, at sentencing today Matthew Cordle got neither the maximum nor the minimum sentence provided by law, but he still got a stiff state prison term closer to the max than the min.  Here is a CBS News report:

Matthew Cordle, the Ohio man who videotaped himself confessing to killing a man while he was driving drunk has been sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison and a lifetime loss of driving privileges.

Cordle, 22, had pleaded guilty to killing Vincent Canzani of suburban Columbus in a wrong-way crash on June 22. In his video, which has drawn more than 2 million hits on YouTube, Cordle says that although he may have been able to "get off" or "get a reduced sentence," he didn't want to "dishonor Vincent's memory by lying about what happened."...

However, last week Cordle's attorneys asked Judge Davie Fais to sentence Cordle to less than the eight-and-a-half year maximum allowable for the crime. Fais sentenced Cordle to six months for driving under the influence of alcohol and six years for aggravated vehicular homicide. The judge revoked his driving privileges for life, which the Associates Press reports is required by state law.

At the sentencing, the judge read from letters he received from people whose lives were affected by drunk driving and at one point said he would like to see Matthew's face on a billboard about the dangers of drunk driving. One of Cordle's attorneys asked the judge to consider that "a lot of people could learn a lesson from the message Matthew has sent," and that his video's message of responsibility would have wide-ranging positive effect on others.

Angela Canzani, the victim's daughter, spoke at the sentencing, saying she hoped Cordle got the maximum amount of time in prison for killing her father. "My father got a death sentence and did nothing wrong," said Canzani. "After eight and half years, Matthew Cordle will still have his whole life ahead of him, my father is never coming back." She also said that she did not want the court to send the message that you can "hit and kill someone," then apologize and "get leniency."...

Matthew Cordle was the last person to speak before the judge pronounced his sentence. He read his statement from a yellow piece of paper that had been folded into a pocket on his khaki prison uniform shirt. "The true punishment is simpy living, living with the knowledge that I took an innocent life," said Cordle. "That pain and weight will never go away."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Elizabeth has been having a hard time getting her comments to post, and she sent me this comment that I thought should be placed up here:

After reading all the student contributions here are the *rough* recommendations/predictions coming from the states:

• Arizona: Manslaughter 3-10 years

• California: Gross Vehicular Manslaughter

• Guam: No Consensus

• Indiana: Vehicular Homicide

• Kansas: Second-Degree Murder

• Kentucky: Second-Degree Murder

• Michigan: More severe than Ohio

• Nevada: DUI Causing Injury or Death, 2-20 years

• New York: More severe than Ohio

• North Carolina: Felony Death by Vehicle, Less than 64 months

• Oliwood: Murder/Manslaughter, Manslaughter, 10 years

• South Carolina: Felony DUI - 6-10 Years

• Texas: Intoxication Manslaughter, 2-20 years

• Wisconsin: Homicide by intoxicated Use of a Vehicle, Class D Felony

An interesting note was repeated throughout discussion of whether the act of drunk driving actually constitutes extreme indifference to the value of human life, replicated throughout many state statutes, including Kansas, Kentucky and Arizona, in order to brand Cordle a murderer. From the viewpoint of the victim and the prosecution, it seems far easier to say yes. From the viewpoint of a perpetrator, I highly doubt they would admit, to themselves or otherwise, that that "indifference" is what consciously went through their mind. This caveat could be open to endless debate, and the ability to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury being highly dependent on the "likeability" of the perpetrator.

October 23, 2013 in Class reflections, Course materials and schedule, Notable real cases | Permalink


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Six years on the first charge (Aggravated Vehicular Homicide) and six months on the second charge (OVI), running concurrently*

Posted by: Matt Raby | Oct 23, 2013 11:14:40 AM

I am a big fan of the comments section when big news stories like this are posted on the web. They are entertaining, in a Jerry Springer sort of way. The CNN story has plenty of comments. I think I have seen most of the issues we raised in our memos addressed here in some way, albeit with much less sophistication.


Posted by: Ben Wallace | Oct 23, 2013 4:45:31 PM

These are great! I love when people just argue with statistics. Just pound "drunk driver America deaths" into google until you find something that supports your argument and spew it into a comment section of CNN.

Look I just did it:

New study shows trolling makes you more stupid:

Our analyses showed a self-reinforcing spiral, which means more people see a shrinking, more similar set of news and opinions on science and technology subjects when they do online searches



Posted by: Christopher Sponseller | Oct 28, 2013 7:33:34 AM

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