James Michael

James Michael was a twenty-six-year-old black male who worked in an oil refinery. One Friday night after work, James met several of his coworkers at a local bar to celebrate an across-the-board pay raise in their division. The party lasted five hours, during which James drank somewhere around a dozen mixed drinks, several of them doubles, thanks to a generous bartender. James left the bar shortly after 10:00 p.m. and proceeded to drive home. No one is certain how the accident took place; James fell asleep, could not see properly, or lost control of his car and crashed into a telephone pole. The impact was on the passenger side of the vehicle. When the police arrived on the scene, they found James lying in a fetal position on the street next to his car. He had, apparently, managed to climb out of the car, but had not gotten very far. The police helped him to his feet. He had no visible injuries, but he was obviously intoxicated. The police asked him if he was all right, and he responded that he was—he just wanted to go home. He was arrested for driving while intoxicated and taken to the city jail.

During the booking procedure, he was asked if he was under a doctor’s care. He said that he was not. He was also asked if he needed medical care. He said that he did not. It was now nearly midnight, and James was placed in a cell with several other men, all of whom were sleeping. James promptly fell asleep himself. Several hours later, an officer came to see if James was sober enough to call a bail bondsman. But James was dead. An autopsy revealed that death was the result of massive internal injuries. James’ family brought suit against the city’s police department, charging the police with criminal negligence. The case went to trial. The jury found that the police had acted entirely appropriately and were guilty of no negligence or other wrongdoing. James’ family left the court facing legal fees of seven thousand dollars.[33]

  1. State a moral issue arising from this case, and state the possible resolutions you would address in analyzing that issue.
  2. What moral values and principles are central to evaluating the issue and the resolutions you list in your answer to Question 1.
  3. Of all of the persons involved in this case, which ones would you identify as at least partially responsible for the situation and its outcomes? For each responsible party you identify, explain their responsibility or responsibilities. Supposing that we represent the total amount of responsibility to be 100%, what degree of responsibility would you assign to each of these parties?
  4. Do you think the police in this case (a) behaved in a morally appropriate manner and (b) demonstrated professional responsibility? Explain each of your judgments.

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