Kendall Coffey on Steve Malzberg 10.18.13

kendall coffey on cyber bullies
Rebecca Sedwick jumped off of a water tower. Flickr CC via Mike Mahaffie

Kendall Coffey appeared on the Steve Malzberg Show on Newsmax TV on October 18, 2013 to discuss current legal cases in popular in the media.  This week’s “Spinning the Law” segment sought the Miami Super lawyer Kendall Coffey‘s opinion on the Rebecca Sedwick suicide in Florida and the prison overcrowding issue in California.

Police in Polk County, Florida are investigating the parents of the alleged bullies that tormented Rebecca Sedwick, who committed suicide last month. The sheriff told reporters that he is seeking liability in the case for the parents.

“The law is pretty clear. It’s called neglect… Let’s say you aren’t paying attention to your kids. If your kids, themselves, your own kids, suffer some kind of abuse or neglect than you can be criminally responsible for that. But that duty or that criminal exposure is really owed by the parents to their own kids. You aren’t legally responsible under the sheriff’s theory that you aren’t doing enough to keep them from going out and doing something to somebody else.  Unless there is active encouragement by the parents to something such as an extreme form of bullying, there’s no crime.  The sheriff might think that it’s bad parenting but that doesn’t mean that they’re criminals”

“There’s no crime of denial. Certainly it makes somebody whose conduct is controversial less appetizing. Sometimes authorities are distressed by it, if somebody doesn’t acknowledge, and they want to see that distress. But it’s not a crime for the parents to say ‘My kid didn’t do anything wrong or I didn’t do anything wrong’. I think it’s sending the wrong message because it’s not the kind of thing that law enforcement should be focusing on.”

“It’s because of the internet and these high profile tragedies, including teen suicides, which is not an insignificant thing, some experts say there are 5,000 suicides a year and it’s the third leading cause of death among teenagers.  There have been spectacular, very high profile cases that have prompted legislators, including Florida, which passed a law against bullying in 2008.”

There may have to be a mass release of prisoners in California after the Supreme Court ruled that California has not been timely enough in prison population management.

“I’m assuming that the court’s opinion is that California wasn’t moving fast enough.  I don’t think it could be said that California was ignoring the situation. They have in fact moved 40,000 inmates out of state prisons. But, from the standpoint of the federal judges, it’s not good enough and certainly you would think before they just let people loose on the street that they are going to give them more time or it’s going to end up on the back of the taxpayers. But that’s a choice for taxpayers and legislators to make.

“You can always reduce populations by reducing prison sentences, but is that where the public wants to be? One big change that has over time really driven the issue of prison populations: People used to get out after just serving a fraction of their prison time. That’s changed now in most places.

“It’s serious business. You can’t look at getting out 30 percent of the way through your prison sentence hardly anywhere in the country anymore. A lot of that was recognition not only that prisons had become revolving doors but also for the rights of victims.  You’re victimized by crime, somebody’s sentenced to 10 years, do you really want to hear about them being out after two?”