Plaxico Burress-Donte' Stallworth: All Crimes Are Not Created Equal

Dan WeinerCorrespondent IAugust 20, 2009

LEBANON - JANUARY 14: New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress arrives at the Lebanon County Courthouse January 14, 2009 in Lebanon, Pa.  Burress is scheduled to appear in a civil trial in a dispute with an automobile dealer over what he owes in damages to a vehicle supplied to him by the dealership. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

Plaxico Burress got two years in jail for shooting himself in the leg. Donte' Stallworth got 30 days in jail for killing a pedestrian while driving drunk.

The outrage! The horror! The completely uninformed public opinion!

The 24-hour news culture and the general dumbing down of the American people as a whole has led people to form the most simplistic opinions possible. The recent high-profile criminal cases involving NFL players have exemplified this.

It's common sense that killing someone while driving drunk is a far worse crime than carrying an unlicensed firearm. However, criminal acts don't act in a vacuum. The circumstances and context surrounding each event play a major factor in the punishment given out. This seems to be lost on a lot of people.

What Donte' Stallworth did was horrific. Getting behind the wheel of car drunk is among the dumber things you can do. The crime that Stallworth was charged with was punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The State of Florida puts a heavy burden of proof on the prosecution to prove that the offender's intoxication led to the victim's death. 

Stallworth was drunk. He admitted to that much. The burden of responsibilities for his victim's death is murkier. Was Stallworth's intoxication to blame? Possibly, but the man also jaywalked across the street, running into traffic. 

There was simply no way the prosecutor could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Donte' Stallworth's drunk driving was primarily responsible for his victim's death.

On the surface, carrying a gun doesn't seem that bad. Regardless of how severe it seems, the punishment for the crimes committed by Burress are punishable by a minimum of three-and-a-half years in jail for each count. Is it overkill? Perhaps, but it's clearly defined by New York law.

What kills me is the people coming to Burress' defense saying that he shot himself in the leg, as if that is sufficient punishment for his complete and utter ignorance of the law. I'm sorry, it's not.

Plaxico Burress tucked an unlicensed gun into the waistband of a pair of sweatpants and went into a New York nightclub. Just because he shot himself in the leg it doesn't excuse his recklessly stupid behavior. Fortunately he only shot himself in the leg. 

What happened if the bullet had shot out the leg of his pants and into the chest of a clubgoer? And why was he walking around with an unregistered gun? How much trouble is it to get a gun license?

To say Donte' Stallworth is lucky and Plaxico Burress is unlucky is wrong. Both were lucky. Stallworth is lucky he doesn't have to spend more time in jail. Burress is lucky his reckless behavior didn't end up killing somebody.

Is the law fair? Not necessarily. Is life fair? No. Both men committed crimes with specifically outlined legal ramifications. The cases aren't similar except for involving NFL wide receivers. It's time for people to stop making the simplistic comparisons.