TN - Eric Erwin for setting homeless man on fire, Nashville, 2003


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Aug 13, 2003
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Deal surprises advocates; prosecutors cite evidence

Albert Blanchard, a homeless man who was set on fire as he slept in downtown Nashville last year, spent more than six months in the hospital, has had eight surgeries and is facing more.

His sister, speaking in Criminal Court here during a sentencing hearing for Blanchard's attacker, said Blanchard has nightmares that either the man, Eric Erwin, or one of his friends will come back and finish him off.

''Mr. Erwin, as you approached my brother, what did you see?'' the sister, Dorothy Blanchard-Smith of Memphis, asked in court. ''Did you see a human being lying at your feet? Were you compelled by the disregard for human life or no regard for his? Could you not find an ounce of compassion for someone sleeping on (a) 20-degree slab of concrete?''

During the March 10 hearing, Blanchard-Smith said she wasn't interested in vengeance but expected justice to be served. She also wanted the maximum sentence allowed, which is three to six years in prison.

Instead, Criminal Court Judge Mark Fishburn sentenced Erwin to four years of probation. Erwin and his attorney did not return phone calls seeking comment yesterday.

Homeless advocates here expressed surprise at the sentence and said the attack demonstrates that the homeless sometimes are viewed as less than human.

''Erwin, if he was intoxicated, was probably acting from a very primitive level from his ego and viewing Mr. Blanchard as a stereotype,'' said Kenneth Townsend, a spokesman for the Nashville Rescue Mission.

Prosecutors said they had wanted to make a stronger case but were limited by the evidence.

''If there was any way the state could have presented this case as an attempted murder case, we would have,'' Davidson County Assistant District Attorney Jim Todd said.

Erwin, a 30-year-old jeweler who lives in Clarksville, testified he could not remember setting the man on fire because he had been drinking downtown, Todd said.
How disgusting! I can't believe he only got 4 years of probation!

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Erwin will be required to meet with the Blanchard family in Memphis. He also will have to help pay for Blanchard's medical bills and spend 16 hours a month working with burn victims, the homeless and the mentally ill.

Blanchard is being cared for by his sister. He visits a burn center weekly and frequently sees a psychiatrist. He becomes overwhelmed when he hears a siren or sees a fireplace, his sister told the court.

HELP pay?! HELP pay?!?! Did I read that right? He should have to pay ALL of the medical and psychiatric expenses this poor man now has to bear. The article says that the homeless man was schizophrenic. This just makes me sick. I'll never understand how some people have no regard for others. :furious:

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