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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Price of Moral Blameworthiness

"The high degree of Mr. Muzzo's moral blameworthiness, combined with the enormous and far-reaching consequences of his offences, set this case apart from others."
“For as long as Mr. Muzzo has been alive, courts have warned about the consequences of impaired driving. Yet the message escaped him. It is important that it does not escape others."

Ontario Superior Court Justice Michelle Fuerst

"That's Milly and Harry. They joined their hands together. They [hospital staff] pushed their beds together; I decided I had to turn the machines off so Milly's heart wouldn't explode. I couldn't pick which baby to turn off the machines first."
"Edward and I crawled into bed with them. We put our hands on top of theirs so that ... just like we were with them when they were born, we were with both of them when they died. They died hugged by us in bed surrounded by all the family and friends that sang to them 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' as we turned off the machines."
Jennifer Neville Lake, Newmarket, Ontario
Vaughan crash
Harry, Milly and Daniel were the three children of the Neville-Lake family killed in the crash, along with their 65-year-old grandfather, Gary Neville. (

Jennifer Neville-Lake and Edward Lake, the parents of Milly, two years of age, her brothers Harry, five and Daniel, nine, had the opportunity to  arrive in time to the hospital where their childen were being cared for on life support, before their two younger children died. They were able to see their two youngest children still alive and breathing, albeit with mechanical assistance. They arrived too late for Daniel, though, he died before they could bridge the distance and time gap that separated them.

Theirs was a heavy burden of unassuagable grief; the reality that Jennifer's father, her children's grandfather, was dead, killed in the same collision that took the lives of the three children. Four members of one family involved in a dreadful, avoidable accident that mercilessly snuffed out their lives, leaving their families in an agony of disbelief and a lifetime of attempting to come to grips with their inability to protect those vulnerable souls they loved.

Their grandmother Neriza Neville was driving, returning the children home in their Grand Caravan that also carried her husband, 65-year-old Gary Neville and the children's great-grandmother Josephina Frias. The two women survived the crash. Their vehicle had been smashed into by a Jeep Cherokee being driven by its owner, 29-year-old Marco Muzzo. He had just returned by private jet from Miami where he had attended his own bachelor party.

The night before he returned there were festivities with friends, the kind that go on into the wee hours of the morning with ample alcohol to fuel the fun. On the plane returning him to  Canada, he had continued to drink. He still decided he would drive from the airport to his home in Vaughan, north of Toronto. En route he happened to run through a stop sign, the result of which was the collision with the Neville-Lake family's vehicle.

Marco Muzzo, right, leaves the Newmarket, Ont., courthouse surrounded by family in February. Muzzo was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the Vaughan, Ont., collision that killed four people.
Marco Muzzo, right, leaves the Newmarket, Ont., courthouse surrounded by family in February. Muzzo was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the Vaughan, Ont., collision that killed four people. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press) 

That happened last September, and Mr. Muzzo, heir to a billion-dollar construction fortune has been in custody since then. He was sentenced to ten years in prison and will likely be eligible for parole once a third of his sentence has passed. A twelve-year driving ban has also been imposed. Mr. Muzzo has expressed his deep remorse. Early on he made a guilty plea. He had no prior criminal record. He has, however, earned ten speeding convictions under the Highway Safety Act.

A forensic psychologist has affirmed that with his wide social network, his employment record and close family support he is considered a low risk to re-offend. But this is a man who was casual-to-oblivious about his responsibility as a driver sharing the road with others; his speeding convictions attest to that. His choice to drive while intoxicated even though he had no sense of being under the influence of alcohol when he decided to drive himself, weighs more heavily on the scale of justice than his remorse and support network.

When he expressed his remorse, the young man pledged his intention to "spend the rest of my life attempting to atone for my conduct, and devoting myself to educating the public of the disastrous consequences of drinking and driving". A tad late, to be sure. It is not as though the dangers inherent in driving under the influence of alcohol are largely unknown, and his experience will now be held as a warning beacon on the shoals of intemperance and intelligence.

He now has the experience of a lifetime, one that will follow him throughout the days and nights of his life. An unwholesome and unenviable memory to live with, one that cannot be expiated, since death is so final and becoming, however unwillingly and unwittingly, a servant of death through intoxicated driving and toxic decision-making results in an irreversible course of action.

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