Robert Kirby: Who’s taking the chance when criminals get a second chance?

Robert Kirby

Everyone wants a second chance after screwing up. Ironically, nearly everyone else thinks those people shouldn’t get one. This is especially true of the offended.

On Wednesday, I sat through the hearing of a friend at the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council. My friend was trying to get his certification as a police officer reinstated for a misdemeanor mistake in 2015.

Because of the circumstances of the case, and the fact that he’s my friend, I thought he deserved a second chance. I’m happy to say that he got it.

Compare that to the recent second chance given to the murderer of a Utah Highway Patrol trooper after 40 years in prison.

He shot and killed Trooper Ray Lynn Pierson during a traffic stop near Panguitch in 1978. An 18-year-old ratbag gunned down the husband of a pregnant wife and the father of three small children simply because he didn’t want to get caught driving a stolen vehicle.

Do I want him to have a second chance after all this time? Nope. Truth be told, I’d much rather watch him try to put ointment on the genitals of a fully alert wolverine in a closet.

But if I’m being fair — which I try not to because it’s boring — most people deserve second chances, especially if they’ve worked hard to prove they deserve one.

Like nearly everyone, I’ve been given second chances throughout my life. I lived to adulthood, thanks to the forbearance of my father. I’m still married because I have a forgiving wife. And I’m still friends with Sonny despite the hole in his truck.

Second chances — often confused with forgiveness — depends on the level of injury the offending party caused and the potential for reoffending.

In my friend’s case, it wasn’t enough to punish him beyond what he and his family already have suffered. He’s a decent person and deserves a second chance.

Lynn’s killer doesn’t. But that’s just me — and about everyone connected with the law enforcement community.

Members of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole think otherwise, just like they did when they recently paroled the killer of UHP Trooper Dennis “Dee” Lund, shot near Green River in 1993 — again by an 18-year-old kid.

I don’t pretend to know what’s on the Board of Pardons’ mind. Hell, I barely know what’s on mine from one minute to the next. Perhaps there are factors of which I’m unaware.

The question is what really constitutes a second chance. The two guys who murdered my former colleagues will be free to kill again if they so choose. Who’s really taking the second chance that they won’t? Certainly not them. The risk is on us.

Sometimes it works — and sometimes not so much. In 1963, a 16-year-old escapee from the State Industrial School, shot and killed Ogden Detective Marshall N. White. He was given a second chance.

After being charged as an adult, he confessed to first-degree murder, was sentenced to life in prison, where he received an education and was even allowed to marry his girlfriend. He also escaped twice and assaulted guards.

After serving 12 years, he was deemed rehabilitated and paroled. A year later, a Salt Lake County deputy shot Mr. Rehabilitated after the armed robbery of a grocery store. Turned him into a quadriplegic, a prison from which there would be no parole until his death in a care center in 1984.

Who should and shouldn’t be given a second chance? Depends on the potential for reoffending. Some people’s crimes are so horrific that they aren’t worth the risk.

One thing is for sure, it shouldn’t be up to me. If it were, the Board of Pardons would consist entirely of annoyed wolverines.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.