Alcohol is a lethal dose to swallow - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Alcohol is a lethal dose to swallow

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Posted: Saturday, May 17, 2003 11:42 pm | Updated: 2:03 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

It seemed at first that Keith Moore was going to take his medicine. Not all drunken lawyers do.

There had been Mark Torre, for example. To be fair, it was never proved Torre was drunk when his Mustang killed Jessica Woodin in Tempe two years ago. But he never gave prosecutors the chance to do so, because he fled the scene.

It was only two days later — long enough to flush any booze from his system — that Torre turned himself in. He’s now serving 9 1/2 years after being convicted of negligent homicide.

Moore, unlike Torre, at least acted like a man after his Mercedes killed Dobson High School senior Yong Jin Kim on April 2. He stopped. He tried to render aid. He waited for the cops, who later said a sober driver could have avoided the collision even though the young bicyclist was crossing against the light.

Given that police said his blood-alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent, Moore’s actions seemed unusual, if not almost noble. We have a plague of drunks fleeing the carnage they cause; at least this drunk did not stoop to that level.

There also was the fact that Moore had the green light — a potential mitigating factor as prosecutors pondered some sort of manslaughter or homicide charge.

So the legal situation for Moore certainly wasn’t hopeless. But something in his life must have seemed that way, for now that life is gone. Moore, 51 — so adept at the legal profession that he had served as a part-time judge for the Maricopa County Superior Court — killed himself in his Tempe home on Thursday.

Maybe it was the alcohol itself that drove him to it. Or maybe it was some deeper, darker demon that drove him to the alcohol. We may never know, and maybe it isn’t our business anyway.

But alcohol, whether it was Moore’s chief problem or the mere symptom of a more profound one, certainly was the lubricant of his demise. Booze had been eating at his life for a long time. Court records exhumed after the April 2 accident showed Moore had an extensive history of alcoholism and a disastrous family life.

Which is ironic, because he had been a family court judge.

That’s the thing with addictions. They are powerful. They bite deep, and they bite across all professions and all social classes. We are all susceptible.

And yet, we are not all helpless. We are not inanimate toys in the hands of forces beyond our control.

Moore’s death is tragic, but it must be remembered that he was the perpetrator here, not the victim. If he was a victim at all, he was a victim of his own making.

The real victims were Yong Jin Kim and his family and friends and a society now robbed of his potential.

And we should not be so glib as to say it was booze that ended Kim's promising life. Keith Moore, who acted voluntarily every time he lifted the bottle to his lips, must take the blame for that, too.

Maybe, in doing away with himself, that’s what Moore finally did — swallowing a medicine far stronger than society ever would have handed him.

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