Sunday, November 26, 2000
The jury in Vail was right to convict former
lift operator Nathan Hall of criminally negligent homicide Nov. 16. The expert skier was a lethal weapon hurtling down Rivas Ridge that last day of the season in 1997 and he should have known better. Instead, the then-18-year-old left his
common sense at the lift shack, leaned back on his skis and killed a man named Alan Cobb as he sped recklessly downhill.
Hall was originally charged with manslaughter. Last spring, his case was heard by the Colorado Supreme Court which ruled, in effect, that the manslaughter charge was valid and should be heard by the Eagle County court that first threw it out.
This newspaper had urged the high court in March to send the case back to Eagle County. We believed then and we continue to believe that not intending to kill someone on a ski slope doesn't mean you shouldn't be held accountable if you do.
Until the Hall verdict, resort guests were presumed under Colorado law to understand that skiing or riding recklessly is a dangerous activity that may end up hurting someone else. Now they should know that the law presumes they understand that skiing or riding recklessly could end up killing someone. And, if that happens, they could face serious criminal charges.
It was appropriate for the bar to be raised.
Hall's attorney argued that Cobb's death, although tragic, was not a criminal act, but rather the result of an accident.
He was wrong. The jury said so and we agree.
Hall was an advanced skier who could have controlled his speed if he wanted. He chose not to. He may not have meant to kill Cobb, but he did. His deadly recklessness was criminal.
On Jan. 4, Hall will be sentenced and the next test of our court system will come. Criminally negligent homicide carries a possible prison term of eight years. While we believe that Hall was guilty of recklessly killing another man, we don't believe he's the type of person who should be punished behind bars.
Instead, we would urge the court to require Hall to complete a month's worth of community service at a trauma rehabilitation center. He should be forced to see up close what happens to human bodies broken by falls, accidents and collisions.
The experience would be sobering to a man who has yet to convince us of his remorse. He is a man who was so angry at the prosecution for pursuing a manslaughter charge that he cussed out and called names one of the deputy district attorneys in the Eagle County courtroom where he was convicted. Hall doesn't seem to understand that what he did was wrong, not just bad luck.
Perhaps helping hurt people will help to change his mind.