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Vail Daily editorial: Up to judge to put justice on track

Vail Daily Editorial Board
Vail, CO Colorado

So … it appears that the district attorney has joined the defense team, and the judge who will consider the notorious plea bargain in the “left me for dead” case generally likes to do the DA’s

bidding.

Any wonder why the community is holding its nose? Not that community sentiment is something the judge will fuss with while studying the case.



Meantime, we’re to understand that a previously undiagnosed sleep disorder just happened to strike when the defendant’s car hit a cyclist on U.S. Highway 6, and then he woke up just enough to drive away without noticing what he had done?

Seems a little, er, convenient, doesn’t it? But District Attorney Mark Hurlbert bought the story and offered a plea bargain to misdemeanor charges because a “felony with deferred judgment” would both harm the defendant’s job prospects and wash off his record in time.



That seems a little, er, convenient, too.

The victim, Dr. Steven Milo, suffered injuries severe enough to cause bleeding from his brain and spinal damage that will require surgery. He’s furious.

And it seems observers – members of the pesky community as well as people across the country – are pretty furious, too.



As far as justice goes, this one isn’t passing the duck test. You know, if it walks and talks and smells like a … rat, there’s a chance that justice isn’t entirely being done here.

Maybe the community should be involved – in the form of a jury.

District Judge Fred Gannett has a chance to put the case on track.

If the defendant, Martin Erzinger, suffered a medical event that truly made him unaware of his actions, has any crime occurred? Why would he even be charged with a misdemeanor in that case?

And if he committed the act of hit-and-run, leaving the cyclist crumpled with injuries that severe, how would misdemeanor or even “felony deferred” charges be justified?

Community observation and mores are not always of the “To Kill a Mockingbird” variety. Sometimes a rat is rank enough that even the public can smell it.

We know Hurlbert is a decent person and a pretty good DA. Otherwise we would not have endorsed his re-election. But that doesn’t mean he’s immune to mistakes.

It’s apparent that this plea bargain was misguided and made with the wrong considerations, based on his own rather tortured explanations.

And the reason we have judges is not to go along with district attorneys as a rule. Gannett is sorely mistaken if he really sees his role as being inclined to accept plea bargains.

That’s called bias, which of course is unbecoming when your job is to make sure justice is best served.

Dismiss the case if the driver medically was not culpable. Try the case – with the community’s proper involvement – if there’s any doubt about the sleep-apnea defense.

That’s what makes sense. This plea bargain frankly stinks.


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