Update Aug. 23 with clarification of St. Louis County judges retention system. Update in bold.
Last Friday, Patrick McCormick, 54, of Chesterfield, was sentenced to one year in St. Louis County Jail Friday by Associate Circuit Court Judge Thomas Prebil. McCormick pleaded guilty to driving into a teacher's car while he was drunk on August 26, 2011.
The head-on crash critically injured Janet Esrock and her teen son Jonathan. Esrock, 50, died two weeks later on September 11.
Besides his jail and probation sentence, McCormick also must seek alcohol counseling and wear an alcohol monitoring SCRAM bracelet for one year after his release from jail.
Many Patch readers took to the commenting section of our previous story to denounce what they believed was a soft sentence for the killing of another human being.
“I do not understand. I am not angry or vengeful; I just do not understand the court’s sentence,” wrote a reader going by the name Lance Martinez. “This man, through his own negligible behavior took a life recklessly.”
Others said they thought Judge Prebil should be removed from serving.
“Remember the name Tom Prebil. I don't know if he was appointed or voted in by the taxpayers, but if it was the taxpayers let's vote him out,” wrote a reader going by the name Charyl.
St. Louis County Judges are not elected by popular vote. According to Missouri law, “any person who meets certain constitutional requirements may apply for a judicial vacancy. From that pool of applicants, a commission consisting of citizens, attorneys and a judge selects three candidates for the judicial vacancy. The commission forwards these candidates' names to the governor, who then selects a judge from among the three candidates.”
Judges, however, face a retention vote after each of their six-year term. Judge Prebil already stood for retention in the 2010 general election, with the next retention vote due in 2016 if he continues on the bench.
Another reader said they thought this sentence would send the wrong message about the consequences of drinking and driving.
“The worst miscarriage of justice in a very long time,” wrote reader Deb Shearer, in our Facebook page. “So many kids followed this case because of Janet and it sends a very bad message about the consequences of drunk driving, not to mention the betrayal of to the Esrock family.”
Outside the courtroom last Friday, McCormick's attorney, N. Scott Rosenblum, was asked by reporters if he thought his client got off easy.
He replied, "That's not for me to decide. You heard the judge. The judge has considered everything. He is a very, very thorough, thoughtful jurist. That's for everybody else to decide, that's not for me to decide."
Tell us in our comments section or vote in our poll: do you believe McCormick’s sentence was fair?