Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Anatomy of a wasted life

Last week a man was shot and killed in southwest Houston because someone else thought he cut in line at a restaurant. A few minutes' worth of insanity cost two young men their lives.

John Lopez, 27, will spend a significant amount of time behind bars while Travone Ford, 24, is dead. Mr. Lopez' family will have to deal with the burden of having a loved one in prison while Mr. Ford's family will have to deal with the reality that he's never coming back.

The two men got into an argument over who was next in line. They argued with each other and then began shoving each other. Mr. Lopez then thought the best course of action was to go out to his car and get his shotgun. Mr. Ford then thought it would be a good idea to follow Mr. Lopez into the parking lot. Mr. Lopez then apparently fired a shot into the back of Mr. Ford's car as Mr. Ford left the parking lot. That shot killed Mr. Ford.

There were so many points at which either man could have stopped the confrontation and two lives could have been saved. Arguing about whether someone cut in line? Come on, y'all are both adults. Get over it.

Pushing and shoving in the restaurant? Either man could have put a stop to that. But the bigger question is why they started pushing and shoving each other. We're not talking about the lunch line in middle school.

Grabbing a shotgun to decide an argument over who was next in line? Wow, that's using your head. I understand reaching for a weapon if your life, or a loved one's life, is in danger. I understand aiming and firing at an intruder in your house. I will never understand getting a gun, much less firing it at someone, because you think they cut in line.

And why did Mr. Ford follow Mr. Lopez out into the parking lot? Was it a macho thing? Did he feel the need to prove his manhood? Had he just let it go Mr. Ford would likely still be alive today.

We talk about the use of deterrents in the criminal (in)justice system all the time. Prosecutors feel that the sentence needs to be ramped up a bit for each subsequent offense to "teach" the defendant a lesson. Defense attorneys all too often fall into the trap of believing that their clients will "learn their lesson" this time. I've got news for you. Deterrents work for those people who are intelligent enough to weigh the costs and benefits of certain behavior. If you can't make that calculation, then no deterrent will save you.

Because neither man understood the calculus of deterrents, two lives were wasted.

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