Saturday, February 06, 2021

Governor Kim Reynolds and Involuntary Manslaughter

"A person commits involuntary manslaughter . . . when the person unintentionally causes the death of another person by the commission of an act in a manner likely to cause death or serious injury."
Source: Iowa Code, Title 16, Sec. 707.5,

"Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday [Feb. 5] lifted Iowa’s partial face mask mandate, public health restrictions on businesses and limits on public gatherings. . . .
Starting Sunday, the day of the Super Bowl:
• Iowans will no longer be required to wear face coverings in public when around other people for at least 15 minutes.
• Businesses will not be required to limit the number of customers or keep them socially distanced.
• No limits will be placed on the number of people who can gather in public.

Source: Erin Murphy, "Gov. Kim Reynolds lifting Iowa mask rules, limits on businesses and gatherings starting Sunday," The Gazette, Feb. 8, 2021, p. A1,


Can we now still say this is just a violation of the spirit behind the criminal law of involuntary manslaughter?
"Gov. Kim Reynolds did not consult her own public health department before lifting Iowa’s remaining COVID-19 mitigation strategies, including its partial face mask mandate . . .. Iowa Department of Public Health Director Kelly Garcia told the legislators the department was not consulted on the decision — that the governor made that decision on her own . . .."
For the full story see, Erin Murphy, "Gov. Reynolds did not consult state health department before lifting COVID restrictions, Iowa Democrats say," The Gazette, Feb. 9, 2021, p. A1

In some ways the most powerful evidence of the folly of her decision is that many restaurant/bar owners are, notwithstanding the voluntary reduction in their income, continuing to follow CDC standards (and common sense) rather than put the health of their customers, and other members of their communities, at dangerous risk. They are sending Governor Reynolds a sort of "Thanks, but no thanks."
"Christina and Mitch Springman, owners of The Map Room . . . in Cedar Rapids, said their employees’ health is at the core of their decision-making and they will keep their pandemic practices in place. 'They’re the ones interacting with the public. They’re the ones putting themselves at risk. . . . We expect our customers to respect our staff, and during a pandemic that means wearing a mask when within six feet and up and about.'”
For the full story, see Gage Miskimen and Lee Hermiston, "Many Linn and Johnson County restaurants will practice COVID safety despite looser restrictions; Dozens of businesses have shared their plans on social media about maintaining mask rules and social distancing," The Gazette, Feb. 9, 2021, p. A1.
When it comes to managing this coronavirus global pandemic during 2020 the U.S. was one of the worst countries on Earth. With 4 percent of the world's population (328.2/7674 million) we managed to kill 20 (19.9) percent (459,895/2,303,322) of the world's COVID dead.

And among the U.S. states, Iowa is one of the worst for coronavirus deaths per 100,000 population (17th from the bottom)
[Becker's Hospital Review, Feb. 5,]. Iowa's comparative ability to administer the vaccines it has received is even worse (at 59.26 percent it's 15th from the bottom of all states [Becker's Hospital Review, Feb. 5,]. Oh, and let's not forget that Iowa's percentage of those tested that are positive ranges between 20 and 30+ percent -- compared with New York's earlier standard that schools would not reopen until the percent positive dropped below 3 percent -- and that it now has people who have tested positive for a varient of the virus that may not be stopped by current vaccines. And that our governor wants to make teachers and students go back to school, based on the CDC's statement that it's safe -- but without mentioning the CDC's conditions (masks, social distancing, improved ventilation, vaccines) which have been neither funded nor otherwise made available.

To repeal all of the mandates and suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control regarding control of this virus so that Iowans can gather together to watch the Super Bowl game, while infecting each other, may or may not prove to be good politics when she runs for reelection less than two years from now. But it will certainly leave her with fewer constituents.

The Iowa Code chapter dealing with "Homicide and Related Crimes" does not require that the defendant intended to kill a specific, named individual -- or unknown people in general in a mass shooting. It also deals with defendants who were engaged in behavior that they knew, or should have known, might result in the death of others. Whether what Governor Reynolds has just done violates the letter of Code Section 707 provisions I will leave to Iowa's criminal law attorneys and judges. Clearly (to me) it violates the spirit of these "right to adult life" protections.

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P.S. If you'd like to see the fabulous Janet Schlapkohl playing the role of Governor Reynolds explaining her decision, look for the video she posted on Feb. 6, 2021, at about 10:00 a.m., on her Facebook page:

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