Should Michael Vick Be Forgiven?

Michael Vick plead guilty in Federal Court today to Conspiracy to Travel in Interstate Commerce in Aid of Unlawful Activities and to Sponsor a Dog in an Animal Fighting Venture. Here’s a link to a .pdf of the plea agreement in the Vick case.

Vick will now be a convicted felon. Furthermore, the Summary of the Facts filed in Federal Court is frankly sickening. [I link to it, but don’t necessarily recommend reading it. Dog fighting is brutal and inhumane, Vick has admitted to materially participating, and that’s all you really need to know.]

My wife and I watched Vick’s public apology, and we had different reactions to it.

She found it insincere and believes, basically, that he can never be forgiven.

Yes, she’s the wife of a criminal defense lawyer, and knows what I do. She knows I have represented clients accused of (and guilty of) other heinous offenses. She is against the death penalty – although, angry about the charges, she did mention it as an option when Vick was first indicted.

She knows that a great deal of my job description often boils down to negotiating what the appropriate and reasonable punishment for my client is – it’s not always about whether or not he is guilty.

But cruelty to animals is her pet peeve when it comes to my job. She doesn’t want me to represent anyone accused of that. I can’t tell you how many Humane Society coffee cups, T-Shirts and umbrellas we have in our house.

But I have to say that I had a different reaction to Vick’s statement. First let me start with the part that bothered me about it:

You know, what I did was, what I did was very immature so that means I need to grow up…

I'm totally responsible, and those things just didn't have to happen. I feel like we all make mistakes. It's just I made a mistake in using bad judgment and making bad decisions. And you know, those things, you know, just can't happen.

I think it’s difficult to frame a continuing course of conduct over (at least) six years as simply ‘bad judgment’.

DWI, Assault, Shoplifting…heck, even Murder, if it’s a ‘one time thing’ can easily be characterized as using bad judgment.  Labeling his own actions as ‘making bad decisions’ does indeed smack of minimizing his culpability.

However, I was actually impressed by his statement; it seemed sincere to me. It wasn’t read off of a piece of paper, it was actually delivered by him. Yes, I know that he was probably well prepared for it by lawyers and handlers. But, given the despicable conduct he was admitting to, it truly was about the best case scenario in terms of a public statement.

Now, I may be a sucker. And I’ll admit there’s no real way to know whether Vick is ‘sorry sorry’ or just ‘sorry that he was caught’. 

But how should we feel about Michael Vick? Can a person change from one who enjoys dog fighting to one who accepts society’s general view that it is totally unacceptable in such a short period of time?

Is there any real way we can know whether his apology is sincere? Is it just part of a PR campaign to get him back in the NFL one day?

Well, my wife reads this blog, and I feel the need to end this on something she will consider a positive note, so…

I just donated $100 to the Humane Society. However you feel about my post, please take the time to donate as well. Even $5 here and there adds up.

And if you have any thoughts about the unanswered questions I raise, feel free to leave a comment or blog about it yourself, and email me the link.

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Comments (3) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
somaziro - August 27, 2007 11:33 PM

I have no problems with Vick, he did the crime and is now doing the time. If the NFL chooses to ban him or chooses to let him play after he gets out it makes no difference to me, that's their choice as his potential employer. I think that the amount of media coverage this has gotten is ridiculous... as most commentators have stated, he would have been better off if he had just beat his girlfriend, the public would have let him off easier - I am not really sure what that says about the public, but seriously when you get down to it, it is only dogs and he is going to jail and will be a felon for the rest of his life. What he did was pretty bad, but so is some of the stuff they do to the animals we eat everyday and no one cries about it (well at least not very many people). He doesn't need my forgiveness and shouldn't need the publics either, he is already being punished by our criminal system and his acts did not personally wrong me so as to warrant a need for my forgiveness.

Adriane - August 28, 2007 4:18 AM

Well written blog! Thank you.

My thoughts - was he sincere? Maybe. But nope. It's not nearly enough. I didn't hear a single word of acknowledgement from him as to the suffering he caused the poor dogs he slaughtered. It was far more than "bad judgement". He is apparently still unaware of the level of sadism he has evidenced by his own admission. If I were to hang my neighbors cat, I think it shows problems far more serious than "an immature act". And were I to kill say 6-8 animals by electrocution, hanging, drowning, etc. I think I might need to view it as more than "making bad decisions". And if I continued my behavior over six years or so...

Mr. Vick did sound sincere in his statement, but he is still clearly not cognizant of why the public has reacted so strongly. To kill and torture an innocent animal for fun is beyond most of our understanding (thank goodness). Also, he only accepted responsibility once there was no other viable option.

I do hope Mr. Vick finds redemption, and it is certainly possible... I have always been anti-death penalty because of my belief in that possibility. As far as Mr. Vick is concerned...time will tell.

Gritsforbreakfast - August 28, 2007 6:49 PM

I grew up around a bunch of old-school rural horse trainers, cattlemen and animal guys, including quite a few cock fighters, but no dog men (that I knew of). Quite frankly, at one point in my life I had to consciously choose to reject some exceptionally callous views toward animals learned from adults I respected at an early age.

All this over the top hand wringing ignores the fact that public opinion is (still) changing about the animals as property model, just as the idea that women, children and slaves were property all were challenged at some historical point. That's not a bad thing, but I have sympathy for those who spent a lifetime enculturated into the old attitudes who get caught in the middle, as Vick has.

Maybe the Vick case is a watershed in that regard, though for my part, as Bush said of Scooter Libby, his personal losses were the more significant punishment and prison is overkill. But whatever they do to Vick won't put an end to dogfighting, which IMO will be with us for at least a generation or two, anyway. best,

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