Transcript of remarks made during sentencing of man who killed his wife CAHILL CONTROVERSY

October 21, 1994

Following is a text of remarks by Judge Cahill and the defendant at Monday's sentencing. The text has been edited for space and to avoid repetition:

Defendant: I would like to tell your Honor I'm very sorry about what happened. I can't change what has happened. I would like to continue working, and it helps me out mentally and everything. I'm just willing to accept whatsoever you will do for my actions. That's all I can say.

Mr. Irwin [the defense lawyer]: Thank you.

L Judge Cahill: You are blessed with a very supportive family.

Mr. Irwin is correct, that people who meet judges for the first time . . . , those not acquainted with the system, frequently ask what is the most difficult thing you have to do. The old saw is that it is decide custody, but that truly is not the most difficult thing that a judge is called upon to do. The most difficult thing that I have found is sentencing noncriminals as criminals.

This case is very similar and equally tragic to the very difficult manslaughter by automobile cases that I've handled in the past year. The consequences are as tragic. I was called upon to sentence a young man who while driving under the influence killed his brother.

I recently had to sentence a noncriminal citizen, a lady who had attended Christmas parties last December or a Christmas party, overindulged and got on the ramp going the wrong way and killed her best friend, leaving two children that that lady was supporting.

And previously I was called upon to sentence an individual, an employee of Xerox who had never had a brush with the law in 15 years and had had a prior ticket of some nature up on Pennsylvania, but while driving home after his wife had left him sometime before and having had too much to drink one night, he struck and killed a 10-year-old child on a bike.

Those are both difficult choices. This is nonetheless, it is equally difficult. There is a distinction. The courtroom contains visitors only on one side (the defendant's), and so I get the benefit of in effect sentencing in anonymity. I don't have Mothers Against Drunk Drivers present. The chances are this case will not even be written up. There is a chance that it might because of the current emphasis on spousal violence and that phenomenon in our society.

The judicial conference, where all the judges of this state gather . . . meets here in Towson a week from Thursday, and upwards of 250 judges will be present. The sole topic for the two-day meeting is domestic violence. I will certainly go with a great deal of current experience . . .

You could not fictionalize a more tragic circumstance than this. On the one hand, there is real sympathy for the defendant and how he should have reacted to this terrible situation. . . . But the victim is nonetheless a victim, and she is deceased. And her mother will never be the same. Nor will the defendant. Nor will his family. That, too, is tragic, but that's part of life.

The [sentencing] guidelines -- I understand the State's position, I don't quarrel with it. I think the state has been extremely fair in this case. I don't always say that. But generally I do, and certainly this case is a case where the State has acted with great recognition of its responsibility to the individual, the decedent, the victim, and the public.

. . . Manslaughter is a serious offense, as the guidelines indicate. Three to eight years for a first offender is a heavy sentence. And for those who have never had the misfortune of spending a day behind bars, they can't understand how heavy that is, because I say we're dealing here with an individual who by his background is noncriminal. He now is a criminal, unfortunately. All the more difficult, his brothers are in law enforcement, and have had long, having seen the rest of the family, I would expect, distinguished careers in law enforcement.

But what do we do with Kenneth Peacock? The two elements of sentencing, the cases tell us, are the individual, the deterrent aspect, the background of the individual, and punishment. I agree with Mr. Irwin, that just as in vehicular manslaughter cases, my sentences in the three cases I mentioned will not prevent other people from killing people with automobiles.

. . . But whether or not the sentence in this case will deter, I can't really say. I would hope that it does. But I cannot think of a circumstance whereby personal rage is uncontrollable greater than this for someone who is happily married. And that is not mere lip service, it is a fact. To be betrayed in your personal life when you are out working to support the spouse under the heightened circumstances of this case are almost unmanageable, I would think, even if a person did not have alcohol as a contribution factor.

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