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HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?


Each week Kevin Tunell was required to mail a dollar to a family he'd rather forget. They sued him for $1.5 million but settled for just $936, to be paid a dollar at a time. The family expected the payment each Friday so Tunell would not forget what happened on the first Friday of 1982.


That's the day their daughter was killed. Tunell was convicted of manslaughter and drunken driving. He was 17. She was 18. Tunell served a court sentence. He also spent seven years campaigning against drunk driving, six years more than his sentence required.


But he kept forgetting to send the dollar.


The weekly restitution was to last until the year 2000. That was a period of 18 years from the day of the accident. Tunell made the check out to the victim, mailed it to her family, and then the money was deposited into a scholarship fund.


The family took him to court at least four times for failure to comply. After the fourth failure to pay, Tunell spent thirty days in jail. He insisted that he was not defying the order but rather was haunted by the girl's death and tormented by the reminders.


He offered the family two boxes of checks covering the payments until the year 2001, one year longer than required. They refused. It's not money they wanted, they said, but penance.


Quoting the mother, "We want to receive the check every week on time. He must understand we are going to pursue this until August of the year 2000. We will go back to court every month if we have to."


Few would question the anger of the family. Only the naïve would think it fair to leave the guilty unpunished. But one has to question: was the family finally at peace once they received 936 payments? Was that enough? Or was it too little? How much is enough? Were you in the family and were Tunell your target, how many payments would you require?


(Source: from a sermon by Freddy Fritz, "Crime and Punishment" 7/19/08)

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