Steven Willis seemed genuinely sorry.
“I can’t ask for forgiveness. I don’t expect that,” Willis said during his sentence hearing Thursday. “There is not a minute that has gone by without me regretting what has happened.”
He went on to say he deserved the maximum 14-year sentence for his choice to drive drunk and crash, killing roller derby mom Samantha Miller in front of her three children.
“It’s not close enough to what I deserve,” he said. “No parent should have to bury their child.”
Willis got seven years, meaning with good behavior he’ll be out in six. The judge said nothing could bring back 27-year-old Miller.
Willis had a record of more than 40 traffic citations, most forgiven because he agreed to court supervision. He did not have other DUIs, but he got many second chances for what his lawyer called “petty offenses.” Those 40-plus offenses showed how ready Willis was to put his convenience or self-interest ahead of the safety of anyone else on the road.
Now there is a new program that allows drunken drivers to have the DUI erased from their records if they spend a year without alcohol, verifying their sobriety four times a day through an attachment to their smartphone.
Going a year without a drop of liquor may signal a lifestyle change. It may mean the person has earned a second chance.
But the trouble is there will always be someone who proves unworthy of that second chance. They will err again, maybe taking away a hard-working mother of three and leaving her children with daily struggles.
Forgiving is one thing. The justice system needs to ensure that past actions are not completely forgotten, and that a history of past sins adds weight to their accountability for recent ones.