A Baltimore Sun editorial on Maryland Bishop accused in hit-and-run death–Freedom for sale

We didn’t question a Baltimore district court judge when she said she couldn’t trust Heather Cook’s judgment if released from jail pending trial. After all, the Episcopal bishop is charged with being a repeat drunk driver who recklessly took the life of a bicyclist on Roland Avenue last month, then left the scene. But we do wonder why Judge Nicole Pastore Klein allowed Bishop Cook bail at all, even one as high as $2.5 million. Does Ms. Cook suddenly become trustworthy if she wins the lottery?

Judge Klein took a gamble on the public’s behalf and lost. Bishop Cook, whose attorney earlier in the week said she couldn’t afford release, posted bail today through Fred Frank Bail Bonds, according to court records.

The scenario underscores why a recommendation submitted last month to legislative leaders proposing that the state’s asset-based bail system be “completely eliminated” should be given swift and thorough consideration. Whether defendants are incarcerated before trial should be based on the likelihood they’ll return to court and won’t harm the public rather than on their ability to afford release.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Alcohol/Drinking, Alcoholism, Death / Burial / Funerals, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, TEC Bishops, Theology

12 comments on “A Baltimore Sun editorial on Maryland Bishop accused in hit-and-run death–Freedom for sale

  1. Catholic Mom says:

    Very interesting article on the whole question of the merits of bail. I did note earlier that an article announcing that Heather Cook had made bail stated that:
    [blockquote] Spokeswoman Sharon Tillman said the church was not involved in the bail payment, but was “grateful that she’ll now be able to resume treatment.” [/blockquote]

    I actually think here being able to “resume treatment” is very problematic here. She’s been drinking heavily for at least 4 years — probably way, way longer. This accident happened in the middle of the afternoon. It wasn’t after some New Year’s Eve blowout. Therefore this would appear to be the condition in which she routinely drives. However, the day after she kills someone, it is suddenly determined that she urgently needs treatment for substance abuse and she checks into a high-end, luxury rehabilitation facility where she can live in very pleasant circumstances while discussing with sympathetic listeners the disease with which she is so tragically inflicted. However, a week later she is removed from this facility and finds herself sitting in a jail cell where things, no doubt, appear quite a bit bleaker.

    I would imagine a week in jail has probably done a great deal to bring home the reality of the current situation to her. And she certainly hasn’t been drinking during that time. But the church is grateful that she can now return to said expensive facility so she can “resume” treatment, as if she had some kind of cancer that had to be treated immediately before it spread. Perhaps she would have evidenced an equal urgency to receive treatment after her 2010 DUI if she’d sat in jail for a month at that time, and Thomas Palermo would be alive now.

    All that actually must actually be accomplished *right now* in order of importance is:
    1. That she no longer drive a car
    2. (significantly lower in urgency) That she stop drinking
    3. (very significantly lower in urgency) That she receive treatment for addiction

    Items #1 and #2 were already being accomplished when she was in jail (with a much greater degree of certainty than when she is out).

  2. Katherine says:

    Thank you for a very good comment, Catholic Mom #1. The article is a very interesting look at bail and how it should be determined or whether it should be granted at all. Cook was arrested on charges on which there is a high probability of conviction, based on what I’ve read about the evidence against her. Why should someone with a history of drinking and driving, and a credible charge of killing someone with a car while drunk and fleeing the scene, be released simply because someone put up $35,000 and a promise to pay more on her behalf? It’s not a matter of treatment for Cook. It’s a matter of public safety.

  3. Sarah1 says:

    I agree with Catholic Mom [i][sob] [/i].

    I’m not particularly sad over her being out of jail, per se, but simply that she will now have access to cars and drink, if she desires it. As nearly as I can tell there is no involuntary commitment to a rehab facility as an adult unless inflicted by the court, so in theory, she can sign herself out at any time.

  4. Catholic Mom says:

    Here’s where she’ll be going. Note that the food is described as “like manna from heaven.”

    I have no problem with good food, or even luxurious surroundings, for people addicted to drugs or alcohol who recognize they need to take responsibility for their lives and are trying to do something about it. For someone who has never taken responsibility and who is literally fleeing there as a refuge from jail, however, I think bailing her out so she can run here (minimum stay is 28 days) is the kind of enabling that made this tragedy inevitable.

    Full disclosure — my brother was killed by a hit-and-run drunk driver (later apprehended) 30 years ago, but that truly is not the basis for my opinion here.

  5. Katherine says:

    Goodness. [blockquote]The program still closely adheres to Martin’s time-tested approach, which means that this isn’t a spot for those looking for cushy time by the pool. “They were very strict with regards to particulars like phone use, and only allowed one family day per month,” recalls an Ashley grad. No music or outside reading whatsoever is allowed, making those rare phone calls and family visits the only substantial source of outside contact—save for face time with the Almighty. To ensure that a rogue client doesn’t spoil Ashley’s sober tranquility, the campus security division is acutely attuned to client behavior, and poised to bounce anyone who, says an alumni, “loses focus.”[/blockquote]First reaction: Maybe she’ll find God there. She needs Him. Second reaction: Who is paying for this? Diocesan insurance? If she could afford this on her own, I don’t know why she needed a friend to post bail.

  6. Katherine says:

    Catholic Mom, my condolences on the loss of your brother. Drinking has victims besides the drunk and families and associates. For Cook’s health, and the safety of her community and the health of her church, it would have been better for her to be jailed in 2010 when she had the first egregious DUI arrest.

  7. Catholic Mom says:

    It also says:

    [blockquote] A team of industrious housekeepers keep the premises glowingly clean and the staff takes care of laundry, so clients can save their energy for working out in the gym or indulging in more recently added activities like yoga, meditation and (for an extra fee) massage.[/blockquote]

    Yes, it would be good if she finds God there. It would be good if she finds God anywhere. But can she find God before she finds herself? In Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov — a poor young student who basically believes himself above not only earthly law but heavenly judgment — has killed an old pawnbroker and her sister pretty much because he can, because the pawnbroker is a parasite on society and Raskolnikov can put her money to much better use than she can. As the novel proceeds, he feels increasingly driven to confess but cannot bear the thought of punishment and the associated bourgeois humiliation. He finally confesses to Sonia, another main character, and asks her what he should do and she says: “Go at once and stand at the cross-roads… bow down to the whole world and say to all men aloud, ‘I am a murderer.” ” Because redemption can only follow from that admission.

    I suspect it will be much harder for Heather Cook to admit the truth to herself surrounded by “the white-collar lawyers, politicians, and celebrity clientele” of Father Martin’s than it would be in jail.

  8. Katherine says:

    “But can she find God before she finds herself?” I don’t know. Years ago I attended a talk given by a deacon and his wife (whether a Catholic or Episcopalian deacon, I don’t recall). The deacon was a recovering alcoholic. He talked movingly about how for many years he drank, and found more and more opportunities to drink, to avoid facing things about himself and his life that he didn’t want to deal with. It was his wife’s fault, for one thing, because she was a lousy housekeeper. When he finally stopped drinking and faced himself and the mess he’d made he was able to make progress on the underlying problems — and he assured us with a smile that he now tolerated his wife’s housekeeping quite well. So I don’t know if Cook needs to find God to find herself or the other way around. She needs both, I imagine.

  9. Catholic Mom says:

    “She needs both, I imagine.”
    I agree completely. But she cannot appreciate the depth of God’s love for her until she realizes who she is.

  10. Catholic Mom says:

    Perhaps this whole discussion of the treatment facility is moot, however.

    [blockquote] Only one condition is required of Bishop Cook under the terms of today’s bail: “Do not drive while pending trial.”
    Arinze Ifekauche, spokesman for State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, confirmed that Cook “is not on pretrial supervision.”
    It is not known where Cook will go after her release today. After the fatal crash with Palermo, Cook stayed at Father Martin’s Ashley, an alcohol treatment center near Havre de Grace, before she was jailed last Friday.
    Asked whether now, under the terms of today’s release, Cook was technically free to go anywhere at this point, provided she not drive there herself, Tammy Brown, a spokesman for State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said: yes. [/blockquote]

  11. Jim the Puritan says:

    I’m sorry, I just have pictures of Lindsay Lohan in my head, who needed to be thrown in jail rather than always having the day of reckoning delayed so she could go through yet more treatment and therapy.

  12. TomRightmyer says:

    I served in Harford County 1968-74 and know about the treatment center. It is nice, but by no means luxury. Think church conference center. Alcoholism is a disease that can be arrested by staying sober. We have not seen any evidence of Bishop Cook’s drinking patterns. I’m glad she’s getting treatment and hope she has had her last drink. Fr. Martin give his chalk talk about alcoholism to the clergy of the Diocese of Maryland several times when I served in that diocese, and I have found it helpful. I encourage people to go to some open AA and Al-Anon meetings. Al-Anon is a program for families and friends of alcoholics. The only requirement for membership in Al-Anon is a problem of alcoholism in a relative or friend. The only requirement for membership in AA is a desire to stop drinking.