Teens Held Accountable For Friend's DUI Death
"But unfortunately the justice system isn't necessarily set up to find a defendant for every victim. It seems like that's what [the police] are looking for," said Ruane.
He compared this set of circumstances to a case from the late 1990s that made its way to the state Supreme Court. In State v. Miranda, a man was charged with risk of injury to a child because his live-in girlfriend was abusing her baby daughter. Santos Miranda did not do anything to stop the abuse, so police charged him too. He was not the baby's biological father, but that did not matter to the trial court.
Miranda appealed his initial conviction to the state Appellate Court, which sided with him. But in 1998, the state Supreme Court upheld the trial court's conviction.
"The legislature has specifically recognized that 'family violence crimes' are not confined to family members but may also involve unrelated household members," wrote then-Justice Joette Katz. "Imposing a common-law legal duty on the defendant in this case is consistent with the legislature's creation of a legally cognizable relationship, advances its express public policy to protect children and fosters the notion that ultimate responsibility for a child's safety transcends biology."
Ruane said the recent arrests seem to take this philosophy one step further. "It's almost like they're trying to do the exact same thing with these kids," said Ruane.
Other states also have addressed a similar case. A woman from Washington state was charged after her intoxicated friend got into an accident and killed six other people. Appeals to the conviction ultimately made its way to Washington's Supreme Court, which in 2009 ruled that the woman could not be charged as an accomplice.
Both Sills and Ruane said the age of the teenage defendants in Glastonbury could make the charges even more difficult to prove in court.
Sills said that because the defendants are minors, they are held to a lesser standard of responsibility than an adult.
He added, "These boys presumably they were under the influence as well. How clear was their judgment?"•