I am writing today on behalf of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Arizona to express our outrage at the continued lack of commitment shown by some Arizona courts in regards to DUI cases. Publicly, Arizona safety officials promote the ‘DUI -- Expect the Max' program as a deterrent to drunk driving. However, their message and efforts are often wasted by courts that look the other way at this violent crime.
One recent example is the case of Rigoberto Arrazola. While driving drunk on Route 87 last July 24, Arrazola drove his car into the vehicle of the family of David and Pernilla Goddard of Payson. Inside the Goddard vehicle were the Goddard's three children, ages 14, 13 and 12.
Pernilla Goddard and her son (David Goddard's stepson) Simon Bergland, 14, were killed instantly. William Goddard, 13, died later at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix. Three passengers in Arrazola's car were injured, as were David and Alexandrea Goddard.
The facts in this case are not in dispute -- Arrazola was drunk, he was driving the vehicle, he did drive his car into the Goddard vehicle. Three people died and five people were injured. Again, these facts are not in dispute.
What is in dispute is why courts continue to give drunk drivers breaks at every turn, despite their publicly stated support of the ‘Expect the Max' program.
On Jan. 4, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Gordon deemed it acceptable to not only reduce Arrazola's bail from $180,000 to $35,000 (of which only 10 percent is needed to secure a bail bond), but to also allow Arrazola the opportunity to leave jail and reside in a ‘step-one halfway house.' No reason was given for the bail reduction, and the action was taken over the strong objection of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.
Cases like Arrazola's are far too common. The actions of Arizona courts put the families whose members are killed in a position of begging the courts, in person, to provide some sort of miniscule amount of justice to compensate for the destruction of their families.
David Goddard and his family tragically lost three members to the willful action of Arrazola. Driving drunk and putting one's self in a position to kill someone with their automobile is a willful and preventable choice.
We wonder -- when will David Goddard have the opportunity to plea-bargain to have some of his family members returned? When will the amount of his pain and loss be reduced, as Arrazola's bail has been?