by Ryan McKeen
I give the State credit for not prosecuting the owner of the chimpanzee, Sandra Herold. It speaks well for our system of criminal justice in Connecticut.
At its core, the State had a weak criminal case against Ms. Herold. She legally owned a pet and the State’s investigation concluded there was no record of any prior attacks by the chimp. If you substitute dog or cat for chimp it becomes clearer that any criminal liability is tenuous at best.
Imagine you own an otherwise well behaved dog and one day the dog snaps and bites a person. Should you go to jail? Would the State be any safer if you went to jail?
Our civil laws provide the victim in this case an adequate venue to be compensated for her injuries. Though, I’m sure that money, no matter how much, is ultimately an inadequate remedy for Ms. Nash.
Connecticut does not elect its prosecutors. Having a weak case against a defendant is different from no case against a defendant. I’ll submit to you the State could have prosecuted Sandra Herold if it wanted to. I’m not sure they’d win a conviction but I’m sure they could have charged her.
It could have been a politically popular move for a prosecutor seeking election to charge Sandra Herold. The case is high profile and the injuries to Ms. Nash are horrific. Fortunately for all State’s Attorney, David Cohen wasn’t seeking re-election. For all I know, he may have made the same call if he were seeking re-election but I’m happy he didn’t have to factor that into a decision whether or not to prosecute.
Every tragedy doesn’t have to result in a criminal prosecution.