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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Carly Rousso Case Not So Clear Cut; Expect No Jail Time.

Undisputed facts in this case are that 5-year-old Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento was killed when a vehicle drove onto a sidewalk as she was walking with her mother and two brothers on Central Avenue in Highland Park on Labor Day afternoon.

Jaclyn was with her 25-year-old mother and her 4-year-old and 2-year-old brothers, all of whom were also injured when a car jumped the curb on the north side of the 700 block of Central Avenue and plowed into them, according to a news release issued by the Highland Park Police Department.

Five-year-old Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento was taken to Evanston Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 5 p.m.

The car that hit and caused Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento's death was driven by 18-year old Carly Rousso of Highland Park.

There is no denying that this situation is a tragedy for all concerned and that the lives of all involved have been altered.  In the wake of this tragedy emotions have run extremely high as to how it was handled and how blame and responsibility should be determined and what punishments meted out.

Here's how Ken LaRue, the Lake County State's Attorney's Traffic Division chief, envisions what happened on Central Avenue on Labor Day:

Eighteen-year-old Carly Rousso was driving a Lexus coupe eastbound in Highland Park. Either before she started driving or once she was underway, she grabbed the canister of dusting spray she'd brought along, put it to her nose, pushed down the nozzle and inhaled.  She was instantly filled with a euphoric sensation brought on by a chemical compound in the spray called difluoroethane. Commonly referred to as "huffing," inhaling this compound and others like it causes asphyxiation that users get high from.  "At some point," LaRue said, "she passed out."  She didn't stop the car as it drifted, first across the lanes going in the opposite the direction. Then, towards the sidewalk by Sunset Foods, where Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento was walking with her mother and siblings.

Rousso has subsequently been charged with one count of reckless homicide and four counts of aggravated driving under the influence of an intoxicating compound. 

From the standpoint of legal action there are at least two problems with determining guilt and handing out punishment in this case.  The first is that unless there is an unimpeachable eye witness or other evidence as to how the difluoroethane entered Rousso's blood, the act of huffing on her part while driving is only speculation.  The second problem is Carly Rousso has a significant history of mental health troubles and diagnosis dating back years.  In fact she was under the treatment of mental health professionals at the time of Jaclyn's tragic death.

Carly Rousso's lawyers are free to argue that Carly was using the the canister of dusting spray for it's intended purposes and simply inhaled the substance within that use.  Furthermore they can argue that the PTSD Carly suffered from (or medications used to treat it or the dusting compound itself or even the interaction of the two) caused her to lapse into an altered state of consciousness during which she was unable to control the vehicle.

According to (720 ILCS 5/6-3) (from Ch. 38, par. 6-3)Sec. 6-3. Intoxicated or drugged condition. A person who is in an intoxicated or drugged condition is criminally responsible for conduct unless such condition is involuntarily produced and deprives him of substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law.(Source: P.A. 92-466, eff. 1-1-02.)

While many will no doubt not want to hear about such issues, the fact remains that the case is far from clear cut and there are several mental health issues (involving substance abuse or dependence and PTSD) that will affect the ultimate criminal outcome here. 

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are you saying that she.was cleaning a computer in her car around the time of the accident?

Anonymous said...

There are hundreds of uses for compressed air and an exact time of use has not been determined nor can it be without an eyewitness or admission by the user.

Anonymous said...

It is a short lived high. Wouldn't that give an approximate time? Wouldn't be reckless to get into a car and drive after an unintentional high, or to use compressed air for some purpose while driving? That would be like texting and driving?

Anonymous said...

See this for answers.

http://drjohnconlin.blogspot.com/2012/09/carly-rousso-case-not-so-clear-cut_18.html

Anonymous said...

What I find so sad psychologically speaking is here is a girl with little sense of who she is as a person, with many Internet comments defining who she is as a terrible person, and how this will add further burden to her already heavy weight in life. I know that this has nothing to do with your argument but I thought that you would understand as a psychologist.

John Conlin said...

You're exactly right. Almost as if she never really had a chance. I see it all the time in other kids in the area. All hell has broken loose by 7th grade and no matter what you do,it keeps going in a bad direction and nothing parents can do will stop it.

Anonymous said...

So sad, but true.

Anonymous said...

My prediction is Carly is going to prison for 10-15 years.

According to Illinois law, the presence of metabolites in the bloodstream is enough to convict in an aggravated DUI case. Difluoroethane is not listed in the intoxicating compounds statute but can be used as an intoxicating compound and is covered by the statute's language.

She may plead not guilty, but unless she is hypoglycemic or has some other medical condition, combined with a compelling argument for how difluoroethane ended up in her bloodstream, she is going to prison.

Prison isn't the end for Carly. What happens from here is her choice, but given her history of making bad choices, I wouldn't be making any bets just yet.

Carly has her whole life in front of her. That's definitely a better position to be in than the one she left Jaclyn in when her car went over Jaclyn's 5 year-old body for the second time ending any chance that innocent child would've had for any future at all.

Anonymous said...

How do you resolve two different understandings of the law? One mentions the.beyond the reasonable doubt aspect.of.criminal law, while the other says that the presence of metabolites in the bloodstream is enough for conviction. Any thoughts?

John Conlin said...

The court is where law is interpreted. The phrase from the poster who appears to have some legal or law enforcement background says it all...."unless she is hypoglycemic or has some other medical condition, combined with a compelling argument for how difluoroethane ended up in her bloodstream"....

The difluoroethane is an airborne neurotoxin and psychoactive substance. If you or I used it for any of it's intended purposes, it's likely some would be inhaled and show up in our blood stream. I have no idea of whether the testing showed it present or present at a certain level. I do know we have no idea how long it takes the body to metabolize and excrete it. It isn't studied as well as alcohol in that regard.

My position is that there are major problems with DUI convictions when it comes to psychoactive substances other than alcohol. Especially if they are airborne and have multiple legitimate uses.

Once again Illinois law states...." A person who is in an intoxicated or drugged condition is criminally responsible for conduct unless such condition is involuntarily produced and deprives him of substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law.(Source: P.A. 92-466, eff. 1-1-02.)"

John Conlin said...

See postscript here.... http://drjohnconlin.blogspot.com/2012/09/carly-rousso-case-not-so-clear-cut_21.html

For my take on what actually happened.