By editorial board • 

We must be content with justice delayed

On moral grounds, Jennifer Weathers, allegedly driving drunk when daughter Meighan Cordie either jumped or fell to her death from the back seat of the speeding car, deserves a much stiffer penalty than she receives at an upcoming plea and sentencing hearing.

But we are a nation of law, not gut instinct and subjective reaction. And under the law, we have no means to exact a more appropriate penalty.
Is that a bad thing? In this particular case, yes. In the grand scheme of life, no.

Even the best minds are incapable of crafting laws, rules or guidelines ensuring a fair result in every application. Not in politics, government, athletics or any other forms of human endeavor.

Weathers, a 50-year-old King City resident, objected to driving her 27-year-old daughter to the Grand Island wedding venue where events began to go terribly wrong.

But her concern was for herself, not her daughter or the toddler grandchild who had to tag along. She felt their presence would force her to leave an alcohol-fueled reception earlier.

When it did just that about 10:30 p.m., by which point fellow guests judged Weathers visibly impaired, she and Cordie had an argument that escalated into a hair-pulling fight.

At the conclusion, Cordie leaped from the front passenger seat in her bare feet, leaving purse, cellphone and daughter behind. Then she got back in, settling into the rear passenger seat beside her daughter.

On a sweeping curve, Cordie hurtled out. Her head struck one guardrail support and her back another, inflicting fatal cardiac and spinal injuries.

Weathers said she exited the vehicle look for Cordie, but couldn’t find her, assumed she’d set out on foot and headed home. She didn’t report Cordie missing until the next morning — too late for a blood alcohol test.

Weathers subverted a polygraph exam by taking a muscle relaxant, after which she grew increasingly less cooperative.

She was ultimately charged only with a pair of misdemeanors — driving under the influence, based on guest observations, and reckless endangering, based on her behavior at the wheel. The latter may well be dismissed to secure a guilty plea on the former, so Weathers can expect little more than a probation period barring her from consuming alcohol or having contact with her granddaughter.

There is no way Weathers could have pushed Cordie from the rear passenger seat, making the cause of death accidental, not homicidal. That ruled out charges like manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

Weathers’ vehicle was never involved in a collision, exempting her of any legal reporting requirement. And refusing to fill in details that could prove incriminating is her right under the Fifth Amendment, bedrock of our legal system.

Sheriff’s Capt. Chris Ray summed up public reaction this way: “I believe at the root of all this, what folks are having the most difficult time with, me included, is that it simply doesn’t seem fair. And it’s not.”
But remember this: Weathers must live with the result.


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