Ex-con Ronald Zigan was riding his Dodge Durango on State Route 17 a couple months after he had been released from jail when he hit a woman riding a motorcycle alongside her husband. The head-on collision killed her instantly. His response to her husband, who rushed to his just-killed wife's side: "What are you doing in my lane?"
Then he smiled and laughed with the officers who responded to the scene. To cap it off, when he was later brought to the Grant County jail and passed some inmates, Zigan waved and quipped: "Fellows, if you hit someone on a motorcycle,don't get caught."
Zigan, who had admitted to drinking six or seven beers before setting out in his car, eventually pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide. What he contested was the exceptional sentence he got--15 years--for what the trial court ruled was his "egregious lack of remorse" and "rapid recidivism."
Both concepts, legally speaking, are fairly squishy. Remorse, in particular, has always seemed an odd and subjective factor on which to base a sentence. You can't see into someone's heart. Yet, the practical necessity of appearing sorry seems to give rise to obvious insincerity. (Even before he was caught bragging to friends about getting off easy, did people really believe the purple prose of an apology offered by Barefoot Bandit Colton Harris-Moore?)
What's more, those wrongly convicted are doubly damned; their continued professions of innocence only send them to prison for longer.
Still, that's the system we have, and under it, the appeals court judges ruled, Zigan was rightly penalized. The court recognized that Zigan, previously convicted on a drug charge, contended that his behavior after the accident did not truly reflect his feelings. A psychologist offered testimony that he was suffering from "antisocial personality traits," among other things, related to his substance abuse.
At sentencing, Zigan said he keeps a picture of his victim, a 50-year-old espresso stand owner named Mildred Kreider, between pictures of his own children.
But that wasn't enough to convince the appeals court, who let the sentence stand--meaning that Zigan, unquestionably, is now truly sorry.