Back in April, we wrote about the DUI case of former Episcopalian bishop Heather Cook. As Baltimore readers remember, Cook was accused of driving under the influence of alcohol after she fatally struck a bicyclist and fled the scene last December. At one point, Cook was facing a total of 13 criminal charges in connection with the accident.
Cook had initially entered a plea of not guilty on all 13 charges. Earlier this month, though, Cook ended up pleading guilty to a handful of charges the day before her trial was scheduled to begin. A couple points about this case are worth mentioning.
First of all, there is the fact that Cook initially pleaded not guilty, and then pleaded guilty just before her trial began. Likely, there are various factors at play with this course of events. Defendants do often plead not guilty initially in order to buy time to determine the best course of action and possibly work out a deal with prosecutors. In this case, a plea deal certainly was struck, and that probably played a large part in Cook’s decision to plead guilty.
Other factors may have come into play as well. It is possible that Cook, being a former religious representative, may have wanted to send a message with the way she handled her case—a message of taking responsibility perhaps. Cook previously stated through her attorney that a plea deal was under consideration and that it would be desirable to avoid a trial “for everyone’s sake.” The guilty plea may also partially have been a way to avoid throwing a negative light on her religious community as well. Such reasons for pleading guilty are largely personal, and vary from defendant to defendant.
In our next post, we’ll take a look at another important issue in this case: sentencing.