I apologize for this post. This is so far out of the scope of this blog it's not even funny. If I could stop myself from posting it I would.
But I can't let this stand and I had to put my reaction somewhere. For those who don't know Senator Ted Kennedy has died. Many are posting blog entries mourning his death. Even some conservative sources, whose politics were the complete opposite of his, are chiming in with condolences.
None of this mourning is deserved. This has nothing to do with politics. This has everything to do with the fact that he killed a woman. That shouldn't be forgotten. She shouldn't be forgotten. So I'm going to tell the story and for those who think it's crass to speak badly of the dead I apologize in advance. But I can't let this man be lionized and no say anything.
For those who don't already know what I'm talking about here's the story. At age 37 Ted Kennedy was running for re-election to his senate seat. He offered to give one of the young women on his staff, Mary Jo Kopechne, a ride.
I'm going to tell the story through quotes from here on out. These quotes are from the Wikipedia entry on the incident.
According to his own testimony at the inquest into Kopechne's death, Kennedy left the party at "approximately 11:15 p.m." When he announced that he was about to leave, Kopechne indicated "that she was desirous of leaving, if I would be kind enough to drop her back at her hotel".
Christopher "Huck" Look was a deputy sheriff working as a special police officer at the Edgartown regatta dance that night. At 12:30 am he left the dance, crossed over to Chappaquiddick in the yacht club's launch, got into his parked car and drove home. He testified that between 12:30 and 12:45 am he had seen a dark car containing a man driving and a woman in the front seat approaching the intersection with Dike Road. The car had gone first onto the private Cemetery Road and stopped there. Thinking that the occupants of the car might be lost, Look had gotten out of his car and walked towards it. When he was 25 to 30 feet away, the car started backing up towards him. When Look called out to offer his help, the car took off down Dike Road in a cloud of dust. Look recalled that the car's license plate began with a "L" and contained the number "7" twice, both details true of Kennedy's 1967Oldsmobile Delmont 88.
So Sen. Kennedy was clearly disoriented after coming from a party. If you ask me it sounds a lot like he was drunk.
According to his inquest testimony, Kennedy made a wrong turn onto Dike Road, an unlit dirt road that led to Dike Bridge (also spelled Dyke Bridge). Dike Road was unpaved, but Kennedy, driving at "approximately twenty miles an hour", took "no particular notice" of this fact, and did not realize that he was no longer headed towards the ferry landing.
Again, have you ever seen a sober person not realize they'd gone from a paved road to an unpaved road?
Dike Bridge was a wooden bridge angled obliquely to the road with no guardrail. A fraction of a second before he reached the bridge, Kennedy applied his brakes; he then drove over the side of the bridge. The car plunged into tide-swept Poucha Pond (at that location a channel) and came to rest upside down underwater. Kennedy later recalled that he was able to swim free of the vehicle, but Kopechne was not. Kennedy claimed at the inquest that he called Kopechne's name several times from the shore, then tried to swim down to reach her seven or eight times, then rested on the bank for around fifteen minutes before returning on foot to Lawrence Cottage, where the party attended by Kopechne and other "Boiler Room Girls" had occurred. Kennedy denied seeing any house with a light on during his journey back to Lawrence Cottage.
In addition to the working telephone at the Lawrence Cottage, according to one commentator, his route back to the cottage would have taken him past four houses from which he could have telephoned and summoned help; however, he did not do so. The first of those houses, referred to as "Dike House", was only 150 yards away from the bridge, and was occupied by Sylvia Malm and her family at the time of the incident. Malm later stated that she had left a light on at the residence when she retired for that evening.
So this woman is drowning and he decides to walk back to the party passing several houses that he could have stopped at to call the police. He instead chose to go get two friends. After they could not help he assured them he would call the authorities. This is what he did instead...
According to his own testimony, Kennedy swam across the 500-foot channel, back to Edgartown and returned to his hotel room, where he removed his clothes and collapsed on his bed. Hearing noises, he later put on dry clothes and asked someone what the time was: it was something like 2:30 a.m., the senator recalled. He testified that, as the night went on, "I almost tossed and turned and walked around that room ... I had not given up hope all night long that, by some miracle, Mary Jo would have escaped from the car."
Back at his hotel, Kennedy complained at 2:55 am to the hotel owner that he had been awoken by a noisy party.
So again, having not called the authorities he had the presence of mind to complain to the Hotel management about a noisy party keeping him awake. Which brings us to the next morning.
By 7:30 am the next morning he was talking "casually" to the winner of the previous day's sailing race, with no indication that anything was amiss. At 8 a.m., Gargan and Markham joined Kennedy at his hotel where they had a "heated conversation." According to Kennedy's testimony, the two men asked why he hadn't reported the accident. Kennedy responded by telling them "about my own thoughts and feelings as I swam across that channel ... that somehow when they arrived in the morning that they were going to say that Mary Jo was still alive".[The three men subsequently crossed back to Chappaquiddick Island on the ferry, where Kennedy made a series of phone calls from a payphone by the crossing to his friends for advice; he again did not report the accident to authorities.
So by the next morning not only has he not contacted the authorities but he's going on with his normal daily routine as if nothing happened. When confronted by the friends who he told he'd contact the authorities he still doesn't do it but instead chooses to call around asking for "advice" on whether he should contact the authorities at all.
The truth is we'll never know if he would have ever contacted the authorities because...
Earlier that morning, two amateur fishermen had seen the overturned car in the water and notified the inhabitants of the nearest cottage to the pond, who called the authorities at around 8:20 am.A diver was sent down and discovered Kopechne's body at around 8:45 am.
So had these fisherman not found the body who knows what would have happened. But this last quote is the most important one of all.
The diver, John Farrar, later testified at the inquest that Kopechne's body was pressed up in the car in the spot where an air bubble would have formed. He interpreted this to mean that Kopechne had survived for a while after the initial accident in the air bubble, and concluded that...
"Had I received a call within five to ten minutes of the accident occurring, and was able, as I was the following morning, to be at the victim's side within twenty-five minutes of receiving the call, in such event there is a strong possibility that she would have been alive on removal from the submerged car"
So had Kennedy immediately contacted the authorities there's a good chance the girl would have lived. Given all that you have to ask how this man is still a Senator. The answer: He has a powerful family. In the end he was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and was given the minimum (a 2 month prison sentence) that was then suspended by the judge (so he essentially wasn't punished at all).
One final note. An independent inquest into the incident took place afterward and was presided over by Judge James Boyle. He determined that what Kennedy did fit the charge of manslaughter (at the least). But...
Under Massachusetts law Boyle, having found "probable cause" that Kennedy had committed a crime, could have issued a warrant for his arrest, but he did not do so. District Attorney Dinis chose not to pursue Kennedy for manslaughter, despite Judge Boyle's conclusions.
The Kopechne family did not bring any legal action against Senator Kennedy, but they did receive a payment of $90,904 from the Senator personally and $50,000 from his insurance company. The Kopechnes later explained their decision to not take legal action by saying that "We figured that people would think we were looking for blood money."
Again, I apologize for this post. But I just couldn't let this "outpouring of grief" for the man stand. No matter how you feel about his politics, his legislative record, etc... it shouldn't make a difference. No amount of good deeds makes you entitled to one free killing of an innocent person.