WHY DID YOU WRITE THE BOOK? I wrote the book because, when the civil cases settled and all the criminal cases ended with plea bargains, there were no trials. There would be no denouement. There would be no Perry Mason moment. There would be no cross examination of involved people. And there was a pervasive feeling in Rhode Island of unanswered questions. I knew all the data were out there. It was simply too massive and diffuse to make sense of. But having worked with a lot of it from the civil litigation, I was in a position to try to pull it into an understandable whole and hopefully an engaging narrative.
YOU HAVE PERFORMED AS A MUSICIAN, RIGHT? Over the years, I've performed as a vocalist in a number of genres, from classical [with the Providence Singers], to church music, to a 1940s group that I sing with now. It's called For Sentimental Reasons.
DID YOU BRING ANY OF YOUR MUSIC SENSIBILITY TO THIS BOOK? I became conscious of how it's the responsibility of the performers not to draw the [audience] into dangerous situations. A group like Jack Russell's Great White had an obligation to its fans it absolutely failed in. It was a traveling illegal enterprise setting off illegal pyrotechnics in unsuitable venues around the country.
WAS JUSTICE SERVED, IN EITHER THE CIVIL OR CRIMINAL RESPECT, IN THIS CASE? DOES JUSTICE EVEN EXIST FOR A CATASTROPHE OF THIS SIZE? There's no way of making the victims completely whole. No amount of money can make them whole. And I don't think any resolution in the criminal justice system can give complete satisfaction. One of the problems here is that there's a real dichotomy between the degree of intent required for the criminal charges — that is, manslaughter — and the absolutely unforeseen horrible result: a hundred deaths. And in sentencing the criminal defendants, Judge Darigan explained very eloquently that tension. On the one hand you say, "The punishment must reflect the fact that a hundred people died," but the law really ties punishment to the degree of intent or culpability.
[Still,] it does a disservice to the memory of the victims to suggest that any criminal penalty adequately reflects the value of a hundred lives. Because it doesn't.
: This Just In
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