Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Murder, Manslaughter or Nothing

Trey Smith

When Ira Reiner was the District Attorney for Los Angeles County back twenty‑five years ago or so, he had a policy of opening a criminal investigation every time a worker died on the job.

Not that he would prosecute every case.

But he would investigate every case as a corporate crime.

And sometimes he would bring criminal charges against the corporation for the death of a worker.

Today, you rarely see a prosecutor bring criminal charges against a corporation for the death of a worker.

Instead, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) imposes minimal civil fines on companies for worker deaths.

Just in the past two months, OSHA fined one company $28,000 and another $77,000 for worker deaths.
~ from The Case for a Corporate Homicide Law by Russell Mokhiber ~
For the most part, if you or I cause the death of another person and sometimes even a domestic animal -- intentionally or because of negligence or recklessness -- we can be fairly certain there will be an investigation. More often than not, we will be charged with a crime, a criminal offense. This is true even when the whole episode was purely accidental. One or more persons wound up dead and someone needs to pay the price.

So, why is it that, if a corporation is the prime culprit, more often than not, the incident is handled as a civil matter? A fine is handed out and some sanctions might be applied, but no one faces any criminal charges.

What makes this artificial divide all the more maddening is that one individual killing one person (though NOT George Zimmerman) can find themselves sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole and yet a corporation through greed and negligence can cause (or precipitate) the deaths of 1 - 1,000 people and never see the inside of a courtroom!

When it comes to money and politics, we are told that the corporation is a person, but when it comes to legal liability for the death of workers and/or community members, then we're told the corporation is not a person -- it's just a company. Individuals tend to pay for serious crimes with their bodies and their freedom; corporations with their pocketbooks.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are unmoderated, so you can write whatever you want.