One of the most bizarre court cases ever may be occurring in the near future. (The reason for the vagueness is that the AP article printed in the Denton Record-Chronicle on December 10th did not give any suggested dates for the actual trial; it just described the situation). Charges of murder have been filed against Keith Cook, who was driving under the influence of alcohol. According to the article, Mr. Cook was on probation for a 1996 drunken-driving conviction (1A), but it did not keep him from leaving a party in his vehicle--despite efforts of the people there to keep him from driving (he was described as "loud" and "belligerent"). His blood alcohol level twice the legal limit, "his pickup truck became airborne when it hit a hill...." He landed on a stationary car which hit two police officers and Jadine Russell, injuring them all seriously. Mrs. Russell later died (7A). Mr. Cook should be acquitted--of murder.
This recommendation is not made because drunk drivers are worthy of any sympathy. If anything, their punishment has in the past two decades been far too light. Sometimes, hung juries occur because, although everyone agrees to the defendant's guilt, some refuse to vote for conviction, thinking that such a situation could happen to them. It only takes one uncooperative juror to set free a guilty person. In other cases a good lawyer will somehow convince a jury not to convict someone because of his/her importance in the community--even though the blood alcohol level is twice the legal amount. Many drunk drivers who have killed people have received such "steep" sentences as three to six months, which is an outrage! And it says to all: "Human life is cheap."
So why recommend that the man be found "not guilty"? There is one other detail that puts a strange twist on this unfortunate situation. Mrs. Russell refused a blood transfusion which probably would have saved her life. Why would anyone do something so foolish? She was a Jehovah's Witness. According to the article:
Mrs. Russell was taken by helicopter to a hospital, where relatives say she refused transfusions so adamantly that she roused herself and tried to pull out the intravenous line. Family members at the hospital affirmed her decision (7A).
Upon what do Jehovah's Witnesses base this teaching? They cite Genesis 9:4: "But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood." They may also refer to other verses similar to this one, but the point of this passage is clear: they were not to identify themselves with pagans who would eat and drink blood. How anyone could confuse pagan cults with modern medicine is a great wonder, but they do. On this basis the woman refused treatment, and because she refused treatment, she died. The drunk driver is certainly responsible for her critical condition--but not her death.
Wayne Coats and others have observed with respect to false doctrine that "stupidity ought to be painful." In this case it was fatal. Mr. Cook is not the guilty one. The woman's daughter, in an emotional outburst said of her mother: "She didn't give him alcohol. She didn't give him the keys. She didn't jump out in front of the truck." All of those things are true, but one more thing should be added: "He didn't deny her the means of saving her life." She did that on her own.
Mr. Cook deserves to be found guilty of violating his parole. He should be made to pay the hospital expenses incurred by those whom he struck. Any property damage should be his responsibility. And if, after paying for these offenses, he is released from prison, he should be denied a driver's license. If he is granted one, it should be revoked the first time he is caught drinking any amount of any alcoholic beverage.
But as for Mrs. Russell's death, she has only herself to blame. To refuse a procedure which would in all probability have saved her life was her own decision; it was a form of suicide. If a life preserver lay in reach of a floundering swimmer and he adamantly refused to grasp it, would we try the captain--even if he pushed him overboard? Such is preposterous!
Perhaps Mrs. Russell's family should be charged with murder because instead of exercising the compassion that any normal person would have toward a loved one whose life was imperiled, they stood by and chose instead to affirm a false doctrine not even taught in the Scriptures (much like the parents of Pentecostals who refuse medical treatment for a child because they "laid hands on her" instead). Save the life first! These misguided souls can repent for the "sin" later.
Perhaps the Watchtower organization should be put on trial for teaching a doctrine that endangers the health of those who are gullible enough to believe their man-made doctrines. Of course, such will never happen because people are free to believe or disbelieve any doctrine they are taught. But in instances like these the cult is more responsible for death than the drunk driver.
Why should Cook be acquitted of murder? Suppose that he had been sober and was distracted by a conversation he was having on his cell phone. Or if that seems too unlikely, suppose he saw a shooting occur and was speeding toward the police station when he lost control of his car. Mrs. Russell would be just as dead--and for the same reason: her refusal of a blood transfusion. In the final analysis, she is the one ultimately responsible for her death. How tragic that, while one person contributed to her death by driving under the influence, she actually died under the influence--of a false doctrine.
*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "DUI (DYING UNDER THE INFLUENCE) (1/10/99)."