Reduced Sentencing in Reckless Homicide Case Considered Outrageous by Victims’ Families

The Chicago Tribune reports that Jeanette Sliwinski, a former trade-show model, will be released from prison on October 2nd. Sliwinski was convicted of reckless homicide in July of 2005.

She was attempting suicide when her car crashed into a Honda Civic, killing three people. Family members of the victims are outraged that Sliwinski will serve less than half of her 8-year sentence.

In the State of Illinois, reckless homicide is defined as the unintentional killing of an individual while driving a vehicle and using an incline in a roadway, such as a railroad crossing, bridge approach, or hill, to cause the vehicle to become airborne.

Sliwinski was found guilty of three counts of reckless homicide for the deaths of Michael Dahlquest, Douglas Meis, and John Glick. However, after a conviction, a judge is allowed to consider certain aggravating or mitigating factors to set sentencing.

In Sliwinski’s case, the judge considered the absence of a violent history and her questionable mental state. Plus, she got credit for two years and four months spent in the Cook County jail as she awaited trial. In addition, Sliwinski’s time was reduced by another six months for good behavior. She also received counseling while in prison and this helped to trim another three months off of her total time.

The Tribune also reported that Sliwinski’s criminal defense attorney said he understands that the victims’ families are in pain but said the judge followed the law.

While Sliwinksi’s release does anger many victim advocates and family members who have lost loved ones due to violent crime, it must be remembered that state legislatures draft and pass bills that become laws.

If there are to be changes in the sentencing guidelines in the State of Illinois, those who oppose the factors used to mitigate Sliwinski’s prison time should make their voices heard in Springfield.

While the moral implications of the time Sliwinksi ultimately had to serve is considered to be a travesty of justice by some, it cannot be forgotten that justice is initially made and dispersed in the halls of legislative bodies and applied by the courts.

If ordinary citizens are not pleased with the application of the law as it was presented in the Sliwinski case, then lobbying to obtain a revision of the law may be the best remedy.