The right decision


Sheriff Mike McCormick made the right decision in December, just before Christmas, when he allowed Kelly McCarron to complete her imprisonment at home, wearing an ankle bracelet, rather than at the Barnstable House of Corrections, where she had served seven months of her one-year jail term for vehicular homicide (January 12, “Teen serving time for vehicular homicide gets house arrest”).

The sheriff’s decision was reasonable, compassionate, and forward-looking, in that Ms. McCarron, barely an adult, must — difficult as it will certainly be — get on with her life, in the aftermath of her responsibility for the inexpressibly sad and appalling, alcohol-fueled car 2009 crash that killed another child, Ms. McCarron’s friend Jena Pothier.

It was the sheriff’s call, a judgment call, and a tough call to make, as evidenced by the reaction of so many Islanders and of the Pothier family which has criticized the decision.

The sheriff will certainly be faulted for his unsucessful consultations with the Pothiers, whose child’s life ended in that crash. He heard their request that Ms. McCarron remain in jail, but unsurprisingly, he was unable to alter their view. He could not grant the Pothiers a veto over his decision, and he was unable to ameliorate their unhappiness with the decision he was about to implement.

There is no evidence and no reporting to support the suggestions — innuendo really — that Sheriff McCormack’s long record in law enforcement and in charge of corrections on the Island and his broad acquaintance with members of the Vineyard bar contributed to this decision and to his failure to consult adequately with the Pothiers. The evidence and the reporting supports the conclusion that Sheriff McCormack made a decision that is consistent with the interests of justice and the hope that Ms. McCarron will find a way to redeem herself.

This page did not support Sheriff McCormack last year for reelection, and we continue to fault his leadership for what we would describe as insufficient rigor and unwarranted compassion toward some of the inmates who are in his charge. But, in the case of Ms. McCarron, the sheriff’s professional instinct toward rehabilitation of a hobbled life yet to be lived served the community well.

Still, there is another issue. Once she was sentenced, Sheriff McCormack was Ms. McCarron’s jailer, although she was confined at Barnstable, because the jail here does not accommodate women prisoners. The decision to bring Ms. McCarron back to the Vineyard and to continue her custody at home was the sheriff’s to make, but there is an argument to consider: Whether it was a decision that should have been the province of a judge, rather than a sheriff.

The particular circumstances of the crime, the youth of the offender, consideration for the dead companion’s parents, and the intimate nature of the community suggest that the modification of the incarceration ought to have been reviewed in a broader context and made, as the sentencing decision was, by the trial judge.

Editor’s Note: Mark Rodgers, a spokesman for Cape Wind, reminds me that the contract between Cape Wind and National Grid originally included a rate of 20.7 cents per kilowatt-hour in the first year of the agreement, as I reported in this space on January 13. But that rate was later changed to 18.7 cents, which I ought to have reported. DAC