The Case of Jordan Whitley
(updated: Jun 19, 2009)
Yesterday I attended the sentencing of 20 yr old Jordan Whitley. There were a few other CFC members in attendance. Mr. Whitley pleaded guilty to all counts including 2nd degree murder for running over and killing cyclist Phil Tidmarsh, in exchange for a lesser sentence and avoiding a trial by jury.
The 20 year old spoke, and then Phil Tidmarsh's widow Annette spoke as well. She talked about some of the nice things that Phil used to do, how he and Jordan share the same birthday. She gave Jordan an unopened letter, and also a hug. She encouraged him to go out and help others, but she also asked the judge to give the maximum sentence.
It was very emotional in the courtroom, as you can probably imagine, and about a minute after Annette finished speaking, the judge issued Jordan's sentence.
He gave him 5 months jail time, stating that he didn't think it would do any good to keep him in prison any longer. After those 5 months he will then go on intensive probation for 6 month (I don't know what intensive probation means). He will be subject to random drug tests. After that he will be on probation for another 14 to 24 months. He will be eligible to get his NC license back after 42 months, at the DMV's discretion.
I can't say whether his sentence would be any harsher if he had killed a woman or child crossing a road or in a car. I know that penalties for DWIs can be longer than 5 months in prison. And this case included 2nd degree murder! Jordan had no prior DWIs, so perhaps that had something to do with it. In my opinion the judge should have sentenced him to riding his bike on Wilmington roads. He might just prefer prison after the first day.
I don't know, but what is amazing to me, and this is in a general sense, is the acceptance or tolerance of the sheer amount of death associated with just getting around. 40,000 people die each year on US roadways, and people are more shocked by a few flu cases. People are terrified of nuclear power, yet think nothing of all the crazies and drunks and their own stupidity on the roads that are far more likely to kill them.
This is the message that our judicial system is sending to people: If you are irresponsible and have no business driving a 3000lb vehicle and kill someone, it's ok. I mean, how in this nation can you be a productive member of society if you can't drive? If you run a decent human being over in your car and ruin people's lives you can make up for it just by being extra nice. After all, it was just a simple nudge of the steering wheel, kind of like that 5mm movement of your finger while on the trigger.
You will get a longer sentence if it involves armed assault, larceny, or beating an old lady on the head than if you run someone over while so high out of your mind that you don't even remember what you did and fall asleep on the way to your booking.
Wilmington has a huge problem with DWIs, but will never seriously address the problem. You know why? Business is too good. The more DWIs, the more work for the DAs. Probably a lot of campaign contributions in it as well. Just follow the money.
Last week my wife's car was rear ended by a guy who was driving erratically. She tried to get away but was unable to. She passed a cyclist and got really worried he was going to hit him, and at least once all four of his tires were across the double yellow line. When the police came, they already had reports from people calling in about his erratic driving. Not only that, since January of this year his erratic driving has been reported six times. Six times, and the officer did not administer any tests, except the "I don't smell anything test". And he got a "failure to reduce speed" citation and off he went.
That's insane - this guy could have been on drugs or something else. There is no way this man should have been allowed to pilot a several thousand pound vehicle under these circumstances, period. They would fire you if you were a machinist and produced poor results or worse, got injured, why is it somehow different as soon as you jump in a car?
In Switzerland if you are convicted of a DWI they take your license away forever, end of story. But in America we've established this precedent that driving is a birthright, and we HAVE to drive everywhere. Our country is big. Everything is so spread out. We have to drive. We made it that way. We got rid of the streetcars and trains, buses suck, and gas is cheaper than water. So do some time, pay a fine, and please don't do it again, ok?
The message is clear, our society accepts of the deaths of thousands innocent lives in exchange for convenience. Mark my words, we will pay dearly for this one day.
If you bike on the roads here, watch out for all the stupid and acceptably irresponsible people driving around. And good luck, you're going to need it.
1. The Tidamsrsh Family. England. said...
Thank you SBA for attending at court yesterday it is very much appreciated. As yet (9.16AM) here in England not one person in America and numerous people connected to this case had contact numbers or email details have bothered to let us know the sentencing result we picked it up last night around 11.30pm on WWAY Channel 3 news and that's it!!!! Again thank you for posting this as soon as you possibly could you took the time and effort!!! Whatever the feeling is over there it is 1,000 fold over here we have been seriously let down by the whole Legal system in America big time!!!! For a start for the judge to pass sentence within a minute of Annette making her speech stinks!!! It's what we expected for months the verdict was already cut and dry HE WAS AN ENGLISH CITIZEN!!!!!!!! THAT'S THE PROBLEM!!!!!!!!!!!!! If this had happened in England or possibly another state in the USA where people live in the 21st century he would have got more Actvive Jail Time everybody connected over there are probably to EMBARRESSED TO CONTACT US????????????????? How on earth can a judge say giving him more time would not do him anygood NO!!!!!!!! It would not do HIM any good but it would do justice to Phil instead of desicrating his memory!!!!!!!!!!!! As for the no Past Priors??? Lets get this straight once and for all, he has no priors for DWI!!!!! CORRECT BUT CHECK HIS RECORD FOR OTHER CRIMES, DRUG POSSESION, DRIVING OFFENCES ETC, ETC, ETC obviously that was never taken into account?????????????? I will have to sign off now because we need to see if anything can be done fron the English end but be WARNED WILMINGTON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! JORDAN WHITLEY WILL BE OUT IN 4 MONTHS SEEING HE ONLY HAS TO SERVE 85% OF HIS SENTENCE TO KILL AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HTANK YOU FOR YOUR UNDYING SUPPORT OVER THE PAST 9 MONTHS AND FOR YESTERDAY SBA. REGARDS THE TIDMARSH FAMILY.
Jun 19, 2009 @ 2:34 AM
2. SBA said...
Star News report here:
Cyclist's widow forgives husband's killer
Jun 19, 2009 @ 5:28 AM
3. The Tidmarsh Family. England said...
Sorry about a mistake in previous email but someone did ring around 11pm our time and left no number we where all round at Phil's elderly mum's house the call was from Annette so she has been the only person to date @ 12.46pm who has let us know anything. Regards England.
Jun 19, 2009 @ 5:47 AM
4. Randy said...
Follow the money is correct. I know several wealthy people who have had several DWI's. Blatant, 3 to 5 times the limit. None have ever been in the court room. You hire a good lawyer, and spend from $1500-4500 depending on how many you times you have done it, and you are off. The lawyers get the cases continued for years, until the DA is no longer able to produce the arresting officer as a witness. Then he gets it dismissed.
Simple formula, and one I have seen used successfully 5 different times. Pathetic. I even mentioned it to Ben David personally one day, and he just rolled his eyes. No comment.
Jun 19, 2009 @ 6:06 AM
5. Bryan said...
It's not just because he was English. They're allowed to kill us yanks on bikes, as well. Part of me is even surprised he'll do that much jail time.
Jun 19, 2009 @ 8:31 AM
6. Erik said...
Being in the justice system I know that there are a lot of things that happen in the prosecution of a case that the public never learns and people won't/can't talk about. So, I pause to indict anyone with the goings-on in this case. However, my eyebrows did raise after reading this sentence. "Tiddy" and I did discuss this prosecutorial process in another thread and I know the victim's family was/is frustrated. I know I would not have been satisfied with the outcome in this matter (outside looking in). Frankly, I'd be extremely angry if it were my loved one. I can't help but draw some parrallels with the Donte' Stallworth case that just concluded - it seems a travesty - and these cases are somewhat similar. My sincere condolences go out to his family and I hope they can eventually find peace.
The article question about Intensive Probation can be answered this way: it is a term of probation where the person on supervision has a curfew (lets say, 6pm to 7am) where they have to be at their home. They're allowed to go to work, counseling, meet with their officer, religious services, attorney visits, and other court ordered obligations. During their curfew time their officer - or that officer's partner (a surveillance officer) checks the defendant/offender at their home to ensure compliance with the curfew and other court ordered conditions. That's it in a nutshell....
Jun 19, 2009 @ 8:34 AM
7. specialized dave said...
I wish I could say I was shocked by the sentence. Unfortunately in our society we no longer have to accept responsibility for our actions. Everything is someone else' s fault. As far as ridiculous sentences dante stallworths is a good example. He is getting off virtually scot free for what he did as well. People get longer sentences for animal cruelty than they do for drunk driving. I'm not sure in what universe that makes sense.
Jun 19, 2009 @ 3:30 PM
8. Ken said...
First and foremost, my heart goes out to Phil's family. I appologize that someone in my hometown destroyed so many lives with such carelessness. I also appologize for the lack of a justice system in this state and in New Hanover County. The judge buckled for some reason that can't be explained but still sickens me. It would be interesting to see if Whitley's parents are part of the more influential underground of this town. It wouldn't be the first time money and prestige has risen above the law in Wilmington; one park and a university building are named after people who made their own laws here in the past (ie November 1898). I also wonder why the DA accepted a plea bargain. Usually this is done when the case against a person is weak, when there is at least some chance the case will go in favor of the defendant. Was the investigation botched? Was evidence mishandled? Who screwed up? For the DA to accept a plea for a lesser indictment can only mean there was a chance Whitley would walk free and clear had this case gone the distance. As for the judge to say the defendant would not be helped if he were to serve a longer jail sentence, since when is justice something that takes into account the perpetrator of the crime? When someone takes a life, justice is about not only making the criminal pay for his crime but also to ensure the safety of the community at large in the future. Justice is to keep the felon out of society so he/she cannot ruin more lives. It's rediculous to think that a judge with years of experience in the legal system missed that point and I, someone who's legal experience goes no farther than "Law & Order" episodes on the tube, see it with laser precision.
Jun 21, 2009 @ 6:45 AM
9. SBA said...
I think the judge (and Phil's widow) may have felt that Whitley was not a lost cause, hence the shorter sentence and a chance to contribute to society. Best thing for him, and anybody really, is to get them into cycling so they become advocates. He would be a powerful advocate. Cycling needs to be a part of our transportation infrastructure and daily life. It is my belief that it is the only way to fix our sick society.
Jun 21, 2009 @ 9:06 PM
10. Randy said...
Well, we all know his name, what he looks like, and when he will be wondering the streets again.
We are governed by law, and law is governed by money.
Jun 22, 2009 @ 9:04 AM
11. Ken said...
I agree with SBA about Mr. Whitley needing to be involved in the cycling community, not only to put things in perspective for him from a safety standpoint but to also help him with an obvious drug dependency condition. Maybe cycling could be the one thing that could change his life.
Jun 22, 2009 @ 6:32 PM
12. Tiddy. said...
Could I just say we are trying to put together an open response letter to the TV and Newspapers covering this story and to this idiotic Whitley verdict. I would just like to say Annette had a right to say and do whatever she thought was right sadly Annette does not speak for the 200 hardcore family members scatterd across America, Australia and England but she had to close the book on Phil's case. We aim to continue whatever way we can but it is proving very difficult with this Legal System in America. Once again thank you to you guys for sticking by Phil he would have been proud of you. Kind Regards The Tidmarsh Family in England.
Jun 23, 2009 @ 12:53 PM
13. Tiddy. said...
Sorry for follow up look at: www.wigantoday.net (Drivers Sentence) and www.leighjournal.co.uk this thursday for our thoughts on the verdict.
Jun 23, 2009 @ 12:55 PM
14. Dawson said...
The sentence sends the wrong message that impaired driving is an excusable offense. Europe's zero tolerance for impaired driving sends the right message that driving impaired in NOT OK! How many more people have to die before they get it? One positive sign on the horizon is the creation of physically separated bike lanes. Here in my backyard of NYC we have the first physically separated bike lanes along avenues throughout the city which has created awareness of the rights of riders. So many more people are riding their bikes to get to work they can no longer be ignored. It's truly something I though I would never see in my lifetime. Until they make cycling safe for the kids though their work is not complete.
Jun 23, 2009 @ 5:08 PM
15. SBA said...
Interesting article from overseas on the sentencing...
Family's anger at driver's sentence
23 June 2009
By Richard Bean
Relatives of a Wigan musician killed in America by a driver who had taken drink and drugs have blasted the sentence handed out by a US court.
Phil Tidmarsh, 44, who was originally from Hindley and a well-known drummer in a string of bands – was catapulted from his bicycle by 20-year-old driver Jordan Whitley.
The judge heard a syringe containing heroin was found in Whitley's car after the accident.
And an off-duty firemen who witnessed Whitley's driving immediately before the collision had called 911 to warn police.
But Whitley, who pleaded guilty to felony death by motor vehicle, drug possession and misdemeanour possession of drug paraphernalia got a sentence of just five months' prison, followed by three and a half years' probation.
Whilmington (North Carolina) Assistant District Attorney James Blanton explained that when a defendant had no record of a similar offence, judges in the USA were allowed to give up to a 25- to 39-month active sentence, just probation or a so-called split sentence where a prison sentence was followed by probation.
But Phil's bother-in-law David Darbyshire said today that the leniency of the sentence had devastated his family.
It has also been condemned by furious cyclists and bikers groups in the States.
Painter and decorator David, speaking for the Hindley family, said: "It's a dreadful decision. My wife and I were so shocked that we had to get away to get our heads together and all the family have had to have time off work we are so upset with it.
"There are dozens of e-mails on website forums condemning the length of the sentence.
"The American legal system has let us down because this is just about the biggest miscarriage of justice I have ever heard of.
"It says you can get behind the wheel, drugged up to the eyeballs, but as long as it is your first offence for driving under the influence you are going to get less than six months for killing. What type of message does that send out?"
Phil, a former Mornington High School pupil and Hindley ARLFC player, crossed the Atlantic six years ago after meeting his wife, North Carolina woman Annette, in an internet chatroom.
Funeral services were held in the small Eastern seaboard town of Ridgemont and at Standish St Wilfrid's Church for grieving members of his immediate family.
His ashes were flown home to his 18-year-old son Matthew.
Phil played drums for American tribute band Jacob's Ladder, who packed clubs across the States with their version of the 1980s stadium rockers Rush.
Laughing Gravy and Back Street Blues were two of the Wigan bands Phil played for.
He was killed last September, days before his fourth wedding anniversary.
Jul 12, 2009 @ 8:25 PM
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