A recent story out of St. Jo- seph, Mo. is currently bringing some disturbing news to light. The story, which original- ly surfaced in early November 2012, alleges 21-year-old Alex- andra Shurr of St. Joseph did not check on her 4-year-old daughter Amber Elizabeth Mosier for any- where between 17 to 20 hours. Her daughter, who had Cele- bral Palsy and was on a feeding tube, was found unresponsive after this time had passed, and by the time of police arrival, was pronounced dead. It was deter- mined she choked on her own vomit and was not being given her prescribed medicine. It was also determined Shurr heard her child choking, but she did not in- tervene.
One of the most disturbing pieces of the report came last Tuesday, April 2. As Shurr ap- peared in court, pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter, the judge ordered she would be giv- en 120 days of ‘shock time’ in a corrections rehabilitation cen- ter. Past this four-month period, the judge will decide whether to grant or deny probation. If she is denied probation, she will re- ceive six additional years in jail. If she is granted probation, she will receive no additional jail time.
Does anyone see the prob- lem here? There’s a potential that an individual who severely neglected her child will be in jail for less than a year. Even at a maximum sentence, which is actually seven years in Missou- ri, it’s still uncertain whether this sentence fits the crime.
In a somewhat similar case in Massachusetts, a 13-month- old boy was found dead in May of 2010. The charges were filed on Feb. 28 after the mother pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. In this case, the mother, Christina Hancock, was sentenced to eight to 10 years in prison. In Massachusetts, the maximum sentence for involun- tary manslaughter is 20 years.
First off, why is there such a large discrepancy between two states maximum sentencing for involuntary manslaughter? But furthermore, does the punish- ment fit the crime? Even if invol- untary, the accidental death of a defenseless child is a crime not often prosecuted harshly enough.
With all of this in mind, how would you have responded if you were a judge or a member of the jury? Does the punishment fit the crime in your eyes? We want to know your opinion.