You likely read about or saw footage of NASCAR driver Tony Stewart fatally hitting competitor Kevin Ward during a dirt track race, after Ward got out of his car and angrily challenged Stewart on the track.
A New York Grand Jury cleared Tony Stewart of any wrong-doing on Wednesday. That was the lead in the story. But it shouldn't have been. That's because buried in the story was that the D.A. Michael Tantillo also noted that toxicology tests of Kevin Ward showed that he had enough marijuana in his system to "impair judgment."
Consider that a moment. Forget even the tragic end result. What if you were another driver in that high-speed race and you discovered that one of your competitors had not only been smoking marijuana, but had smoked enough to impair his judgment. Would you be livid or terrified?
Now add to the picture the image of Kevin Ward getting out of his car during a high-speed race with cars whizzing past him, and he's wandering angrily on the track, challenging another car. Impaired judgment? Gee, ya think? A lot of people thought it was impaired judgment even before they knew about him smoking pot and knowing how much was in his system.
It's a terrible, sad situation. And Kevin Ward's family is still saying that they're unhappy with the decision to clear Tony Stewart, and that it will "pursue all remedies in fairness to Kevin." I assume that that means the possibility of a lawsuit in civil court.
It doesn't matter what I think about what happened at the race, because I didn't see the race. If the family wants to pursue a civil case, that's their right. And for all I know maybe a jury will agree that Tony Stewart is at fault, unlike what the Grand Jury decided. Or not.
But it certainly seems to me that when the defense brings out that Kevin Ward had smoked marijuana before the race and had enough in his system to "impair judgment," that's going to be a monumentally tall hill to get over.
I had initially written that that's going to be a "high hill." The story is too tragic to end on what could have been perceived as a joke. But it would have made the point all on its own.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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