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Old 05-11-2006, 12:09 AM   #1 (permalink)
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4 years for what?

So, you all remember that nightclub fire in RI.. killed about 100 people when a rock band's pyrotechnics went crazy and burned the club down. Well the band's manager, who started up the pyrotechnics, was just sentenced to 4 years in jail.

Now, I ask, am I the only one who thinks that this was a little much? The man is not a criminal, he's just a dumbass who made a bad decision. The decision may have inadvertently killed 100 people, but I'm sure more than a handful of us are responsible for more misery as a result of some "butterfly effect." What he did was dumb, but in no way was it criminal. It was negligent, but jailtime is a little out of control. By putting him in jail, you're putting him with the people who purposefully made it a point to fuck with other people. His only crime was trying to entertain.

I think it's a very sad verdict and I think that all the people who wanted him to go to jail for longer need a better grip on reality.
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Old 05-11-2006, 01:17 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Hey Halx, how is everything over on the wrong coast ?

anyway, I'll give you what I know of the background of how a judgement could be reached in this instance, and then you can decide if you would rather it the other way around...

(I'm going to nutshell this, but I've got a lengthier explanation in the poltics forum)
old days: agrarian economy + producers primarily consumed their own goods + laissez-faire capitalism --> legal formalism: law resolves disputes between individuals + intent must be proven to establish liability

industrial age: complex society + consumers interdependency on producers they no longer personally know --> necessitates new standard of liability
why: if standard of liability is too strict (producers always liable), then producers will not take risks
if standard of liability too lax (producers never liable), then consumers will become too fearful to consume

holmes and pound begin to argue for sociological jurisprudence
resolution of liability standard: what a "reasonable and prudent man" would do
attempts to have a middle-ground between too strict standard of liability and too lax


how this relates: attendees must have a reasonable expectation that an organizer will not do something stupid to jeopardize their safety, or people won't attend. the guy is operating dangerous items in a crowded venue.

I'm not saying he should have gotten more time, and I don't really have an opinion of whether this was too lengthy of a sentence. but now you have a nutshell explanation of the logic behind such decisions and you can make assessments of whether he should or should not have been punished given this additional info.
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Old 05-11-2006, 01:23 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Negligence + Death = Involuntary Manslaughter. I don't think he deserves life in prison but he is guilty and deserves punishment. I actually think 4 years is a fair punishment. Hes not the only guilty person though. There were WAY too many people there and that's night club owner's fault. He is just as negligent and deserves the same punishment. Had the nightclub been under max capacity there may not had been a stampede and many more people could have escaped.

He'll probably be out on parole in 18 months anyways.
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Old 05-11-2006, 02:45 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I dont think that stupidity is an excuse for anything... If that was the case, then drunk drivers would be walking free.

I don't believe the guy when he said that he had permission to light the pyrotechnics, not that the club owners have any more credibility when they say they didnt... but just because someone says it's OK, I think you have to assess the situation before lighting off pyrotechnics.. INSIDE.. .WITH FOAM COVERED WALLS... A reasonable person I would hope would say - -HMM maybe this isn't such a good idea.

The club owners trials will be interesting...

His courtroom reaction was a little overly dramatic... and seemed to be playing the sympathy card... I guess to counteract some of the family member statements that they couldn't get out of bed in the morning because their loved one was gone...

His reaction was one of a person who's carrying a lot of guilt... which means that he knows that he was responsbile... and he should be punished... Prison is about punishment - it's not about rehabilitation... it's about punishment...
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Old 05-11-2006, 06:03 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I think that the punishment fits the crime. He should have gotten the permit. He should have made sure that the walls weren't flamable. He should have had fire extinguishers readily available. He never should have set off fireworks in a building with no sprinkler system.

Just because you didn't mean to kill someone doesn't mean that you should walk, in my opinion. If I, for instance, let motor oil leak out of my garage because I'm too lazy to clean it up and someone drives through it and wrecks, I should go to jail since I caused their death.
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Old 05-11-2006, 06:09 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by The_Jazz
I think that the punishment fits the crime. He should have gotten the permit. He should have made sure that the walls weren't flamable. He should have had fire extinguishers readily available. He never should have set off fireworks in a building with no sprinkler system.

Just because you didn't mean to kill someone doesn't mean that you should walk, in my opinion. If I, for instance, let motor oil leak out of my garage because I'm too lazy to clean it up and someone drives through it and wrecks, I should go to jail since I caused their death.

Well said, and I agree wholeheartedly.
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Old 05-11-2006, 06:18 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I'm not sure where I stand on this. In general I think people should be held accountable for their actions but this guy certainly did not intend to hurt anyone and was just trying to put on a good show. I don't put him in the same category as a drunk driver who kills someone. Perhaps the band and club should have to pay civil damages but I'm not sure criminal charges are warranted.

I wonder if any organizers and planners go to jail when fans are trampled to death at other concerts due to "open seating" frenzies. Cincinnati banned open seating after the 11 deaths at a Who concert years ago but recently changed the rules to allow them because of loss of business. I think 54 were trampled to death at an open air concert in Bellorussia a few years ago.
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Old 05-11-2006, 06:18 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maleficent
His reaction was one of a person who's carrying a lot of guilt... which means that he knows that he was responsbile... and he should be punished... Prison is about punishment - it's not about rehabilitation... it's about punishment...
As an aside, feeling guilt does not translate to being guilty.

And as another aside, I personally think that prison should be about both punishment and rehabilitation. But that's two potential threads off the OP, heh.
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Old 05-11-2006, 06:29 AM   #9 (permalink)
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It would have been so easy for him to use safer, smaller effects given the size of the club. You buy them off the shelf with specific heights, durations etc. Definitley criminaly negligent, and I think the sentence is fair. He'll be on parole and such before too long anyways.
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Old 05-11-2006, 06:32 AM   #10 (permalink)
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So what should have been done?

Dumbass kills 100 people, injures 200 and I'll assume some of those 200 were pretty baddly burned, and he should get a slap on the wrist and a 'don't be a dumbass again' warning?

Four years (and I assume he could get out earlier) for 100 deaths and 200 injured. Families shattered, lives wasted and he gets out in the time it takes to get a B.A. (at worst).

I'm not sure there IS a good penalty for something like this. I also rather doubt that ANY TFPer has caused more misery by a butterfly effect, and this wasn't just a random act but gross stupidity.
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Old 05-11-2006, 07:54 AM   #11 (permalink)
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My friend was in the band that was the opening act for Great White. He told me some horror stories about what when down. Four years seem a little light I think eight would have been better. Sure it was his fire works that caused the fire, but I think more of the blame should go to the owner or manager of the club
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Old 05-11-2006, 08:02 AM   #12 (permalink)
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It was a stupid accident. Nothing malicious was behind it. I think in this instance, prison was a mistake. Restitution, LOTS of community service(going to schools lecturing about the accident, etc).
He was not the only one involved here-the club owners, the band..the biggest ones, I think WERE the club owners. This manager was doing a job he'd done for a while, and he was remiss in not checking out the club, the exits, etc., but prison? Serves no purpose. The owners knew what they were getting for their money and they were totally irresponsible in that regard.
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Old 05-11-2006, 08:12 AM   #13 (permalink)
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I would cast the net a little wider on this issue, as well.

Where were the fire inspectors? When was the last time the place had a proper inspection? This could have easily been an electrical fire, IMHO, and not having sprinklers, flammable wall coverings, poorly designed exits... there is a long list here.

I have to echo the other posters when I say that the owner is ultimately responsible here. The bouncers let too many people in. Why? More people = more liquor sales = more profit.

There are many, many lessons to be learned here, and it is up to the public to demand better. If the public demanded sprinklers in nightclubs, then laws would be passed. If the public demanded fire retardent everything, then laws would be passed. What is important is to ensure that this lesson is sent home into the future.

Giving this guy 4 years is a crime. Negligence? Yes. Ignorance? Yes. Justice served? No. I would rather his bunk be given to the molestor who is getting parole due to "System Pressures".

Where are the lawmakers? What are they doing to ensure that this does not happen again? Where are the changes? Where are the lessons?
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Old 05-11-2006, 08:18 AM   #14 (permalink)
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He defiantly should have been punished, but jail time? We have people who do much worse and get much less, have him pay a fine, go on probation, and run charity rock concerts for community service.
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Old 05-11-2006, 08:20 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBen
I would cast the net a little wider on this issue, as well.

Where were the fire inspectors? When was the last time the place had a proper inspection? This could have easily been an electrical fire, IMHO, and not having sprinklers, flammable wall coverings, poorly designed exits... there is a long list here.
My father is a fire marshal. Building have to go through a routine inspection every ___ months/years depending on what the state says. Even if they fail, they still have time to fix problems before they are shut down.

As far as sprinklers, according to the Life Saftey Code Book if a stucture is under 10,000 sqft sprinklers are not required.
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Old 05-11-2006, 08:39 AM   #16 (permalink)
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I'm not much of a believer in negligent homocide. I think he's going to jail because 'somebody' has to be blamed. The band's manager cannot be expected to know the building specs, if pyro was not authorized it should have been documented.
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Old 05-11-2006, 08:47 AM   #17 (permalink)
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I'm not much of a believer in negligent homocide. I think he's going to jail because 'somebody' has to be blamed. The band's manager cannot be expected to know the building specs, if pyro was not authorized it should have been documented.
If you are going to set off fireworks in a confined space filled with lots of people, its your job to find out if its safe to do so. He is at the very LEAST a dumbass, who's dumbassitude killed 100 people. Now maybe there were more dumbasses involved who should be at fault, but that doesn't obsolve him of guilt.
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Old 05-11-2006, 09:19 AM   #18 (permalink)
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You all seem to be content to say that this guy should have known. Well, this was nothing but a gig. This was not a situation where he was familiar with every detail. You walk into a club, you set up your gear, you get ready to play. You don't analyze every detail of the scene, and you don't observe the chemical structure of the walls. If you're the manager of a rock band named Great White, chances are, you're not educated enough to consider these things. Not to mention, you probably don't know that you even need a permit.

Ignorance in this case is a lot different than driving drunk. You don't have television ad campaigns telling people not to rig their own pyrotechnics. Pyrotechnics are not one of the top 5 causes of death amongst teens.

I think this guy's guilt will speak for itself. A shitload of community service is all that this warrants. People seem to be awfully vengeful about this, but I think that's just because they want to see blood.
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Old 05-11-2006, 09:25 AM   #19 (permalink)
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You do walk into a room and notice the low ceiling height. That should have been enough to pull the pyro from the show.
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Old 05-11-2006, 09:27 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBen
There are many, many lessons to be learned here, and it is up to the public to demand better. If the public demanded sprinklers in nightclubs, then laws would be passed. If the public demanded fire retardent everything, then laws would be passed. What is important is to ensure that this lesson is sent home into the future.
I don't think so. Look at the Coconut Grove nightclub, in Boston. Just under 500 people were killed in 1942 because of flammable decorations, inadaquatly marked exits, side exits welded shut so patrons couldn't skip out on their tab, and a revolving door enterance that was quickly rendered useless. The owner was sentenced to twelve to fifteen years in prison, but served only four. Lessons were learned after that fire...sure. exit doors had to open outward (all exit doors not welded shut at the coconut Grove opened inward) revolving doors had to be flanked by outward opening "normal" doors, flammable paper decorations were forbidden, and so on and so forth. But...like anything else time erodes these hard lessons and we forget.
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Old 05-11-2006, 10:48 AM   #21 (permalink)
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I would totally agree with the assessment that the families are looking for blood pay, but they're misguided somewhat. On the other hand, we don't know (yet) what charges, if any, the owners face.
Fire inspections, etc., have a minimum standard, including the number of occupants a building can safely hold. But fire marshalls don't stay at such places every night counting heads. The onus is on the owners and staff to keep things to code. Those owners knew who they hired, they knew how many their club could hold-but money talks. This manager has done this part of his job many times over; he probably doesn't give it a second thought.
Hal and I don't always see eye to eye, but we're joined on this one-a prison sentence went to the wrong guy.
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Old 05-11-2006, 10:49 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Halx
You all seem to be content to say that this guy should have known. Well, this was nothing but a gig. This was not a situation where he was familiar with every detail. You walk into a club, you set up your gear, you get ready to play. You don't analyze every detail of the scene, and you don't observe the chemical structure of the walls. If you're the manager of a rock band named Great White, chances are, you're not educated enough to consider these things. Not to mention, you probably don't know that you even need a permit.

Ignorance in this case is a lot different than driving drunk. You don't have television ad campaigns telling people not to rig their own pyrotechnics. Pyrotechnics are not one of the top 5 causes of death amongst teens.

I think this guy's guilt will speak for itself. A shitload of community service is all that this warrants. People seem to be awfully vengeful about this, but I think that's just because they want to see blood.
If you're the manager of the band, isn't it your JOB to know these things? Isn't it your job to make sure that the venue is ok with you setting off fireworks? If not, then who's job is it? It's got to be someone's.

I agree that drunk driving isn't a good analogy for this case - that's why most states have a separate crime for vehicular manslaughter. I think that a better analogy is someone who smokes in bed and burns down an apartment building. Sure, it's a little dangerous, but most smokers have done it at one point or another. They certainly don't mean to kill anyone by having one last smoke, but that didn't save the little kid who died on the South Side of Chicago earlier this week because this exact cause.

Anytime you cause multiple deaths because you make a dumbass, preventable mistake, I think that jail time is warranted. Sure there may be exceptions to that rule, but the manager's mistake killed 100 people in this situation. I think that the manager and both owners need to serve some time here - it's an insult to the victims and their families otherwise.
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Old 05-11-2006, 01:15 PM   #23 (permalink)
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I'm on the fence about this one, so I agree with many points, even those that contradict..

As far as jail time goes, in the end you would have to say being stupid is a serious crime if someone dies right? (I guess that about sums up involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide...) The problem would seem to be the ambiguity surrounding this. One person? Two? How about somebody’s pet, or many zoo animals? There are plenty of people making stupid decisions everyday that result in death that are never punished at all (take for example, some folks at NASA). Some might say our own president..

I think the real motivation here comes down to appeasing the survivors and their families. But people don't necessarily have a rational response when grieving or dealing with the loss of a loved one. I'm sure some of the families would be quite happy to see this guy put to death or get life in prison. But what in reality makes prison the appropriate punishment if it purely comes down to not insulting anyone? What is so justifying about putting this man in jail with people that have actually gone out and willfully and vindictively committed crimes against others?. Are different forms of punishments (like some already mentioned) other then jail time really so far-fetched?
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Old 05-11-2006, 01:36 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Well Jazz, is whoever lit that blaze going to get jail? I don't think they should. To me, jail is punishment for malicious activity, and also disobeying prominent laws. Every infraction that this indivudal incurred was slight. The results of one bad turn after another is what lead to all the death, and I like I said, that's like blaming the butterfly down in peru who is flapping it's wings right now, and as a result the next big hurricane is going to kill a bunch of people.

I also think the word "liable" should be stricken from the English language.
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Old 05-11-2006, 05:51 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Well Jazz, is whoever lit that blaze going to get jail? I don't think they should. To me, jail is punishment for malicious activity, and also disobeying prominent laws. Every infraction that this indivudal incurred was slight. The results of one bad turn after another is what lead to all the death, and I like I said, that's like blaming the butterfly down in peru who is flapping it's wings right now, and as a result the next big hurricane is going to kill a bunch of people.

I also think the word "liable" should be stricken from the English language.
but Halx, that's why I tried to lay the rationale out for standards of liability and intent. if you make the standard be someone has to "prove" you intended to harm them, then you raise the potential that people will get away with things simply because of the difficulty of such a standard. this was precisely the argument made in the 20's moving through the 30's as we moved into a complex, interdependent capitalist society.

we have to set a standard and if you don't agree with the "reasonable and prudent man" doctrine, what do you propose would be better (keeping in mind that the subjective liability standard has been determined to be ineffective and untenable for over 80 years now)?

I don't know why you would advocate strking liable from our lexicon. and perhaps we can discuss that, or despite my interest in your rationale for dropping it, I don't have a problem not worrying over it since we do have it in our vocab and have to deal with it as a legal concept
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Old 05-11-2006, 06:13 PM   #26 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Halx
Well Jazz, is whoever lit that blaze going to get jail? I don't think they should. To me, jail is punishment for malicious activity, and also disobeying prominent laws. Every infraction that this indivudal incurred was slight. The results of one bad turn after another is what lead to all the death, and I like I said, that's like blaming the butterfly down in peru who is flapping it's wings right now, and as a result the next big hurricane is going to kill a bunch of people.

I also think the word "liable" should be stricken from the English language.
Sorry, but I think "liable" is a pretty important word, considering it's the one that keeps me employed - and donating

You're right that some of this guy's actions were small, but personally I think that it's pretty wreckless to set off fireworks indoors without knowing if it's going to be safe, but maybe that's me. If I go out to the train tracks and put a penny on the tracks to see it flattened and it causes a deadly derailment, then I should go to jail. I think that the ferry captain in New York who fell asleep at the wheel and killed 5 or 6 people should go to jail - but by your logic, all the guy did was take a nap when he was tired. If your actions cause someone else's death, you deserve to be punished. Maybe jail time isn't always deserved, but when there are 100 funerals, someone needs to serve time because they screwed up bigtime.
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Old 05-12-2006, 05:16 AM   #27 (permalink)
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I am disappointed that the blame was not laid fairly among those in charge. The Club owners should have at least gotten half that sentence. When the owner of an establishment does not ensure that the environment is safe for it's customers then they are liable. The band was only getting paid from the owner, he was the one who invited the band to come, and he should have been the one to ensure safe numbers and that proper exits were available.

I don't think I'd say that the band manager should get less of a punishment just because it's not all his fault though. Everyone involved in the planning for that event has equal and full responsibility. I do think that community service or some other type of punishment would be more appropriate and more useful to all involved.

As for saying that other people who do worse, get less of a punishment - I don't think that should be a reason for making the band manager's punishment smaller. Just because we aren't harsh enough on worse offenders does not lesson the gravity of what happened in this situation. It just means that we need to make the other offenders suffer a harder punishment.
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Old 05-12-2006, 05:40 AM   #28 (permalink)
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raeanna - the owners haven't gone on trial yet. One is set for 7/31 and the other hasn't been scheduled yet. They'll get their day in court, and I certainly agree with your sentiment. After all, they were the ones who installed a highly flamable, toxic-fume spewing material in a wood-frame building. ANY fire there could have been deadly, let alone one when it was packed with people. The band manager should have at least asked if the soundproofing was flamable before setting off the fireworks, which he apparently didn't do, according to the story.

I'm going to stick by my earlier statement that anytime you cause 100 people to die because of wreckless and/or negligent acts, you need to serve jail time. If it were my family member killed there, I would certainly expect that to happen and would be very angry at a community service-only sentence. That may be more "useful", but this is about punishment, not usefullness. We send people to jail for stealing money or not paying their parking tickets or get drunk and run their oil tankers aground in Alaska. No one is physically hurt by these actions, yet they all warrant jail time.
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Old 05-12-2006, 01:20 PM   #29 (permalink)
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I thought the sentence was a little harsh. Don't really think prison in this case is the appropriate punishment.I can't see what this guy is going to learn in prison as opposed to doing something like speaking about the hazards of this and possibly educating people in the music business that do jobs like his on a daily basis.

Or maybe ban pyrotechnics in small venues,...but not before they ban my gender from wearing Birkenstock sandals with one piece denim dresses. tsk
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Old 05-12-2006, 01:38 PM   #30 (permalink)
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Smooth -- you're a little off. Since they got jail time, I'm guessing the charges were criminal, not civil, and what you're saying only applies to civil negligence. It's not really clear what the distinction between civil and criminal negligence is, only that criminal negligence is a much higher standard than civil negligence. The standard for civil negligence is, as you say, the "reasonably prudent person." But to be criminally negligent, your conduct has to be outrageous, beyond the bounds of decency . . . . Courts put it in different ways, but the idea is that you have to be really, really negligent. I don't know what the exact facts are in this case, so I'm not going to comment directly, but if the manager was actually criminally negligent, then he certainly deserves the jail time.
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Old 05-12-2006, 01:45 PM   #31 (permalink)
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I was disturbed by all the family members of the victims treating him like he was Osama bin Laden or something. They were even going after his mother. In my opinion, he made a tragic mistake, but he didn't intentionally try to hurt anyone.
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Old 05-13-2006, 12:35 AM   #32 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by asaris
Smooth -- you're a little off. Since they got jail time, I'm guessing the charges were criminal, not civil, and what you're saying only applies to civil negligence. It's not really clear what the distinction between civil and criminal negligence is, only that criminal negligence is a much higher standard than civil negligence. The standard for civil negligence is, as you say, the "reasonably prudent person." But to be criminally negligent, your conduct has to be outrageous, beyond the bounds of decency . . . . Courts put it in different ways, but the idea is that you have to be really, really negligent. I don't know what the exact facts are in this case, so I'm not going to comment directly, but if the manager was actually criminally negligent, then he certainly deserves the jail time.
Thanks for pointing that out, asaris.
I was incorrectly applying negligence under civil law to a criminal trial.

Is it true that criminal negligence would be defined by local or state statute?

It would be more appropriate to discuss general intent versus specific intent.
Some people in this thread are questioning whether this man will learn something while sitting in prison (specific deterrence).
But if we believe in general deterrence, then we would still want to put him in prison to teach other people that behaving like he did will be punished.


That would be a cool poll, Halx, whether the people posting in here belive in specific or general intent. And then see if their reactions in the threads match what they chose.
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Old 05-13-2006, 02:36 AM   #33 (permalink)
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I don't care how stupid a person claims to be or is demonstrated to be- you don't start a fire unless you're sure it's safe to do so. If you don't know what safety is, you don't set things on fire. You don't use fire unless you're certain of your ability to control and contain it, and correct a loss of containment should it arise. Pyrotechnics are fire- fire with propulsion. Everyone knows fire burns, and everyone over the age of maybe 12 knows it can be dangerous and shouldn't just be flung around on a whim. He was grossly negligent to the tune of 100 dead, and 200 injured. Four years is a bit lax in my opinion, based on the body count.

And by the way- negligence will typically cover faulting a person for not applying knowledge they should have when using/doing something. For example- you have a driver's license and forget a traffic law and accidentally kill someone, that's negligence. If a doctor's training clearly encompasses the subject of a missed or incorrect diagnosis, that's negligence. When doing what you're doing, the lack of knowledge required to do it correctly is easily and often considered negligence. Being unaware is not an exception- that's like "I didn't know it was illegal" exempting you from prosecution for breaking a law.

Last edited by analog; 05-13-2006 at 02:43 AM..
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Old 05-13-2006, 09:47 AM   #34 (permalink)
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In fact, that's exactly what distinguishes 'recklessness' from 'negligence'. Criminal Recklessness is a conscious disregard of a known risk; negligence doesn't require that you know about the risk.
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Old 05-13-2006, 10:05 AM   #35 (permalink)
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doing something stupid that resulted in death should be punished.

had proper precausions been taken, the whole situation could have been avoided.

negligence isnt an excuse, and he shouldnt be off the hook for it.
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Old 05-13-2006, 04:15 PM   #36 (permalink)
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That guy is a comlete fool. And whether or not he intended for that to happen society needs to be protected from him. Not convicting him would be the wrong message to anyone who is in a responsible position.
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Old 05-23-2006, 06:07 PM   #37 (permalink)
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I think anyone would know that doing things without the education/permits necessary is a bad idea. Just like driving without a license. He knew that it was a bad idea, and he knew that this bad idea concerned hundreds of people. Still carrying on with the pyrotechnics is a crime by my set of laws. It's probably negligence by the official law.
In any case, I think people need to think before their acts.
However, I somewhat agree with you Hal, that 4 years of prison is excessive, or that his "punishment" should be something else than sitting in a cell. Nothing is gained for society with that, and he obviously has learned that it's bad to play with fire, so no isolation from society is justified (not for so long a sentence as 4 years).
I think he should work for a long time to help those affected and prevent accidents like that to happen again.
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Old 05-25-2006, 08:50 PM   #38 (permalink)
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Well when I first opened this thread, I was expecting to agree fully with Halx, because my immediate feelings when I heard of the ruling were basically the same as his.

However.......after hearing the rest of your arguments, I must say that I am now very much so on the fence. You guys have raised some interesting points that I had not thought about.

I guess I still feel that four years is too much, but I no longer think that he was treated completely unjustly.

It's just a very difficult situation, IMO. I'm glad I didn't have to be the one to decide.
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