Let's consider two cases. In the first case, a driver with an elevated blood-alcohol level accidentally strikes and kills a pedestrian who was jaywalking. The driver enters a guilty plea for manslaughter and receives a sentence of 30 days in jail, two years house arrest, 1,000 hours of community service, eight years probation, and permanent revocation of his driver's license. The driver also reaches a financial settlement with the victim's family.
In the second case, a driver is intentionally speeding well beyond the posted limit when he strikes another vehicle, killing two sisters inside of it. The driver here is acquitted of vehicular homicide and is only fined a few hundred dollars for minor traffic violations. Since the driver was using his employer's vehicle, the employer reaches a financial settlement with the victims' family.
Both cases receive media coverage. In the second case, coverage is muted and the press is generally sympathetic to the driver. In the first case, coverage is disproportionately higher and uniformly negative towards the driver. The coverage is so extensive that the first driver's employer suspends him without pay for an indefinite period – even though, unlike the second driver, the accident had no relation to the first driver's employment.
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