Love him or hate him, the Ohio man who admitted to killing someone while under the influence of alcohol will be charged the maximum sentence. Matthew Cordle, who admitted he “made a mistake” and urged people not to drink and drive will soon have his day in court.
Many applauded his confession, and while most agree he is no “hero” some argue that what he did, willing, on his own, and publicaly should at least be recognized as taking personal responsibility. A novel approach for some criminals who do everything they can to avoid punishment even when there is eye witness or video evidence of them committing the crime.
Did Cordle make the video to get sympathy?
What about the critics who claim Cordle has made the video to garner sympathy from the state? In an article today by Danny Cevallos, a CNN Legal Analyst, Cevallos notes that if that was Matthew Cordle’s intention he made a big mistake.
Why? Cevallos believes that “Matthew Cordle has risked sealing his fate with a maximum sentence by giving this confession.” Cevallos claims that while Matthew Cordle may receive some kudos from society, he can expect very little from the state. In fact, individuals who volunteer an admission are actually punished in our criminal justice system because as Cevallos noted, they lose their best bargaining chip- the agreement to plead guilty if the state agrees to charged with a lesser charge or give them a lighter sentence. As Cevallos notes, “In a criminal prosecution, the strongest playing card in the hand of the defendant is a guilty plea. Sometimes, it’s the only card he holds.”
What does Matthew Cordle have now? Legal analysts argue he now has nothing. He has already provided the prosecution with all the evidence they need and he has removed the incentive they may have had to make any plea agreements.
What should the prosecution do with Matthew Cordle?
The prosecution in this case has told us he will seek the maximum sentence. He also believed he had enough evidence to convict Matthew Cordle without the video admission. But Cevallos argues that maybe the state should look at this case a little differently. The state has the legal obligation to seek justice, but Cordle could be an example to future drivers motivating them to take responsibility for what they have done. If other drivers follow his example, not only could it bring healing to other families but it also could save the state a lot of money by offering a judicially efficient resolution to DUI cases.
Should Cordle be punished? Absolutely. Should the state seek the “maximum penalty”? I’m not sure. Accepting personal responsibility, creating a service announcement and saving the state time and money should count for something.
Cevallos notes that “exploiting a weakness in the defendant’s bartering position” shouldn’t be what this case is about. Would Cordle have gotten off? Probably not, but the good news for the citizens of Ohio is because of his video, we won’t ever have to find out.
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