CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Widener University CrimProf Comments on Dangling Girlfriend Murder

Oliver_151x266From Widener University CrimProf Wes Oliver recently discussed the murder trial of Kevin Eckenrode who is charged with third degree murder in the death of his girlfriend, who fell 23 stories from his apartment window. If convicted, Eckenrode could spend up to 40 years in prison. 

Professor Wes Oliver of Widener University said “We've all done stupid things when we're drunk. 'Wish I hadn't done that.' This is one he really wishes he hadn't done.”

CrimProf Oliver says the jury will decide whether or not Eckenrode acted with malice, a term that can mean conscious disregard for life, when the 25 year old dangled his reported fiancé’ out of the window at his high rise apartment last February.

“You can't get past the fact that the jury, when they look across the courtroom, the saddest person in the courtroom about this death is the defendant.” Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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I would think one is both morally and legally responsible not only for getting into the state of drunkenness, but also for what one does while in that state. I don't see how you can sever the two without undermining accountability in the first instance. This does not preclude showing compassion or mercy for the defendant, perhaps as a mitigating factor in sentencing (I'm deeply ignorant of the legal specifics here). 'Tis true that we've all (well, nearly all) done stupid things while drunk, but while there's some degree of or scale for what counts as 'stupidity', the differences in degree or where one's acts fall out on this scale are rather important (e.g., speaking ill to my wife, drunk-driving, or murder), and the law rightly recognizes this. Perhaps the defendant harbored some deep-seated ill-feelings or rage against his girlfriend that alcohol allowed him to express without inhibition. In any case, I find it hard to see how Professor Oliver can infer the jury's attitude regarding the mental state of the defendant in the manner noted above.

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Jan 11, 2007 3:15:24 PM

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