Kerry Kennedy Criticizes DUI Policies

Kerry Kennedy, the 54 year old daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, appeared on NBC this week following her acquittal for DUI based on drugs. She criticized the policy of the police and prosecutors of aggressively prosecuting every DUI case.

Kennedy was found not guilty of DUI after arguing that she mistakenly took a sleeping pill instead of her medication. She argued that many innocent people get caught up in the criminal justice system because of the "terrible policy" of "pursuing every single case of driving under the influence".

Kennedy's comments have upset a lot of people including Michael Bastardi Jr. who lost his father to a DUI driver who killed eight people in a horrific collision in Westchester County where Kennedy was prosecuted. Mr. Bastardi Jr. called her comments "a disgrace", stating that "everybody knew with that Kennedy name she was going to walk out of that courtroom…..but some time in jail would have done her some good."

Public outrage over Kennedy's acquittal and comments illustrate the strength and depth of public hostility towards people arrested for DUI. The fact is, not everyone charged with DUI is guilty, but it is sometimes difficult for people to separate their strong feelings towards DUI suspects from the individual facts of a person's case. This is an issue that I always have to deal with when going to jury trial on a DUI case.

It is very important to have the jury understand the need to separate their hostility towards drunk drivers from the facts of the case at hand. Some potential jurors find it impossible to do this and are open about their feelings. These are the first jurors to be excused for cause. Most jurors will agree to try the case on the facts and set aside any prejudices they have, but the point needs to be hammered home during jury selection and closing argument.


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