Child’s Cruise Ship Death Raises Question: When Should Caregivers Be Charged?


Professor James Cohen was asked by NBC News about the decision by prosecutors to charge a grandfather with negligent homicide for the tragic accident that resulted in the death of his granddaughter on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in July.

“With cases like this, you stand in front of the jury and make it very clear that ‘look, we are not saying grandpa intended to harm this child, never mind kill the child. What we are saying is what he did is so careless that no one in his position had any business lifting this child up,'” Blinka said. “Essentially the issue becomes grandpa did something that was both tragic and stupid and the issue is whether that stupid act that resulted in a child’s death should result in his criminal conviction.”

Jim Cohen, an associate professor of law at Fordham University, echoed that.

“A prosecutor is going to ask the question: Why didn’t this grandfather know that there was no glass there? What many of us often do in such a circumstance is we put our hand out to touch the glass,” he said.

Others said the charges went too far.

In the case of children — who by nature are helpless, vulnerable and dependent upon their caregivers, said Peter Scharf, a public health criminologist at the Louisiana State University School of Public Health — there is often a desire to “blame someone, even if it’s not legally appropriate.”

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