Make Way For Daddy

Hey, remember a while ago I brought up the case of Big Daddy Leadfoot, the father-to-be who tore through the greater Manchester, NH area at triple-digit speeds to get his laboring wife to the hospital, and got a speeding ticket? Well, John Coughlin had his day in court — and the judge let him off.

I stand by my initial reasoning — Coughlin made some very poor errors in judgment — bypassing two closer hospitals in order to get to his hospital of choice, and taking a Kia down a highway at speeds up to 102 MPH in the middle of the night. The judge would have been entirely justified in finding him guilty.

And then, in my world, suspending the penalties as long as Coughlin kept his nose clean for, say, six months.

Instead, the judge found him not guilty, buying into Coughlin’s attorney’s “competing harms” — Coughlin had a choice between two bad things, and chose what he saw as the lesser.

I think that this is a case of compassion winning out over justice — and I’m OK with that. The trooper really had no choice but to issue the ticket — a decision that should have been made by a higher authority than he. And while the judge ruled against the trooper, it was Coughlin who got the lecture from the bench.

Fortunately, Coughlin is very unlikely to repeat this. He and his wife have said they won’t have any more kids, so she’s not likely to go into surprise labor again any time soon. And he’s been dragged through the system and told — time and time again — just how reckless and dangerous and stupid he was in his 102-MPH race to Manchester, bypassing two closer hospitals.

Common sense prevailed. I’m glad Mr. Coughlin was given his ticket, I’m glad he got his day in court, and I’m glad the judge let him off with a thorough ass-chewing.

All in all, a good day for justice and New Hampshire.

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  • Upset Old Guy

    A little comic genius seems appropriate to quote here, “Bailiff, whack his pee-pee.”

  • kevino

    “Competing harms” is a reasonable way of looking at the situation. The principle comes down from English Common Law: if you break the law because following the law would mean greater harm would come to innocent life. It is fundamental to understanding self-defense law. If a 280lb guy with a butcher knife crashes through your door in the middle of the night, threatening to kill you, and you shoot him dead, you are guilty of multiple crimes, including homicide. But you are excused, because a reasonable person would believe that greater harm would come to innocent life by following the Law.

    The driver should not have been going that fast, IMHO. A 10-15% reduction in speed is in order. And he shouldn’t have been talking to the 911 operator on his cell phone. And he should have gone to the nearest hospital.

    However, law enforcement should not have written the ticket, or, once it was written, they should have withdrawn it. The case will get publicity, and this is not a good case to put in front of the public as it will encourage others to ignore the Law.

  • GarandFan

    “The trooper really had no choice but to issue the ticket — a decision that should have been made by a higher authority than he.”

    So every time a cop has to make a decision, they have to call someone else to make the call?

    Not that I’m unhappy with the outcome. On more than one occasion I gave people the choice between an ass-chewing and a ticket. Surprisingly, some chose the ticket.

  • John S

    103 mph on Rte. 93? If he had done it a few hours later during the morning rush, no one would have noticed. Ambient traffic flow at commuting time is 85 to 95 mph — even in rain and snow.

  • Let me clarify, Garand. When someone does 103 on a highway in the middle of the night, I don’t think it’s appropriate for the cop to decide whether or not to issue the ticket. That kind of speed, to me, says “here’s your ticket, tell it to the judge, let him or her make the call on this one.”

    I understand cops have a certain amount of discretion. God knows I’ve benefited from it on several occasions. But once the car hits triple digits, I think it’s beyond their discretionary scope. And the fact that the ticket was tossed should in no way reflect on the cop.

    That make it any better?

    J.