Readers Upset at Judge’s Sentencing of Chesterfield Drunk Driver Who Killed 1

Patrick McCormick received a one-year-in-jail sentence and five years probation for the death of a Chesterfield mother and injuring of her son last year.

Update Aug. 23 with clarification of St. Louis County judges retention system. Update in bold.  

Last Friday, Patrick McCormick, 54, of Chesterfield, was sentenced to one year in St. Louis County Jail Friday by Associate Circuit Court Judge Thomas Prebil. McCormick pleaded guilty to driving into a teacher's car while he was drunk on August 26, 2011.

Esrock, 50, died .

Besides his jail and probation sentence, McCormick also must seek alcohol counseling and wear an alcohol monitoring SCRAM bracelet for one year after his release from jail.

Many Patch readers took to the commenting section to denounce what they believed was a soft sentence for the killing of another human being.

“I do not understand. I am not angry or vengeful; I just do not understand the court’s sentence,” wrote a reader going by the name Lance Martinez. “This man, through his own negligible behavior took a life recklessly.”

Others said they thought Judge Prebil should be removed from serving.

“Remember the name Tom Prebil. I don't know if he was appointed or voted in by the taxpayers, but if it was the taxpayers let's vote him out,” wrote a reader going by the name Charyl.

St. Louis County Judges are not elected by popular vote. According to Missouri law, “any person who meets certain constitutional requirements may apply for a judicial vacancy. From that pool of applicants, a commission consisting of citizens, attorneys and a judge selects three candidates for the judicial vacancy. The commission forwards these candidates' names to the governor, who then selects a judge from among the three candidates.”

Judges, however, face a retention vote after each of their six-year term. Judge Prebil already stood for retention in the 2010 general election, with the next retention vote due in 2016 if he continues on the bench. 

Another reader said they thought this sentence would send the wrong message about the consequences of drinking and driving.

“The worst miscarriage of justice in a very long time,” wrote reader Deb Shearer, in our Facebook page. “So many kids followed this case because of Janet and it sends a very bad message about the consequences of drunk driving, not to mention the betrayal of to the Esrock family.”

Outside the courtroom last Friday, McCormick's attorney, N. Scott Rosenblum, was asked by reporters if he thought his client got off easy.

He replied, "That's not for me to decide. You heard the judge. The judge has considered everything.  He is a very, very thorough, thoughtful jurist. That's for everybody else to decide, that's not for me to decide."

Tell us in our comments section or vote in our poll: do you believe McCormick’s sentence was fair?

Sensible? I think so August 21, 2012 at 01:24 PM
I think that the article leaves the impression that Judge Prebil's continued service has not been up to voters. According to Missouri law, following the excerpt in the article: "After the judge has served on the bench for at least a year, the judge stands for retention by the voters at the next general election." Judge Prebil stood for retention in the 2010 general election and was retained with 60.1% of the vote. [http://judgepedia.org/index.php/Thomas_J._Prebil] Circuit court judges have 6 year terms [http://www.moga.mo.gov/const/A05019.HTM] So Judge Prebil would next stand for retention in the 2016 general election. However, there is a mandatory retirement age of 70 [http://www.moga.mo.gov/const/a05026.htm] and he'll be about that age. So I don't know if he would stand for reelection or not.
ltm August 21, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Alcoholism is a very real and present danger. Mr. McCormick, at age 55, took a life while driving intoxicated. Do you think this is Mr. McCormick's first time on the road inebriated? Do you think this is the first time Mr. McCormick had a bout with the bottle? Do you think Mr. McCormick is not a danger to the community? Do you think Mr. McCormick had a history in alcohol abuse?
ltm August 21, 2012 at 01:33 PM
I agree that Prison is not the answer. I think rehabilitation is not the governments goal to fix criminal behavior, premeditated or accidental. Since the United States has more people incarcerated than any other country in the world (free or otherwise) including China; I am suspicious of the motivation for a democratic society to imprison and not attempt to rehabilitate so many citizens - aren't you?
JCAT August 21, 2012 at 04:30 PM
This is his second DWI...he had another in his 20's. Obviously, he did not learn from the first one and now he took the life of an innocent person. This Judge should have upheld the laws that are already on the books recommending 5-15 years. Only when society realizes there are consequences for drinking and driving will that one person stop and think. Some say, well it only takes one drink to be considered DWI status. This guy…can’t even say his name, was two times the legal limit and obviously he was impaired. He could not control his vehicle!
Carlos Restrepo August 24, 2012 at 09:25 AM
Thank you for your comment. I will update the article accordingly!


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