THE BLOG
11/17/2014 03:41 pm ET Updated Jan 17, 2015

70 Year Old Woman Prosecuted for Neglecting Her 98 Year Old Mother

We hear too many stories of our supersized justice system. Too many people locked up, the school-to-prison pipeline, etc. Here is another one: A 70 year old woman in Alexandria, Virginia, has been prosecuted for failing to take adequate care of her ailing, wheel-chair bound, 98 year old mother.

Never mind that Anne Bailey Farr is reported as having taken excellent care of her mother for twenty years. Never mind that she is reported as suffering from depression, common among aging caregivers. Never mind that psychologists described Anne Bailey Farr as intermittently suicidal in the years since her mother broke her hip.

Let's be clear that her mother's death was a tragedy. She fell and couldn't get up. Forensics later showed it was a heart attack. The court records show that the daughter called 911 but the call was routed to Washington DC, not Alexandria. The daughter hung up or got disconnected before it was rerouted correctly. Apparently she went out of the house for help but got confused. Her mother stayed on the floor for two days before anyone came.

I need to say it again. This was a tragedy. A woman died. Her daughter was unable to help. "This has really been a nightmare," she told the Washington Post. "I don't think I will ever forgive myself." Too many people struggled for too long; too many helping systems didn't help.

On top of that tragedy we seem to be adding another one. The prosecution.

But the prosecution is not a heart attack, old age or a misrouted 911 call. The prosecution is a choice. It is a choice that could have been, and still can be, made differently. It is a choice that I question most profoundly.

Yes, I'm far away. No, I don't have access to all the court records. But, please. Anne Bailey Farr is 70 and her mother was 98. There has been trouble enough. Any public attention or public resources should be designed to help. Call the social workers, mental health counselors and personal care aides. Keep the prosecutor out of the house.

Anne Bailey Farr has already pleaded guilty to a felony. She is awaiting judgment and sentencing.

"Hypertophic" means excessive growth. Usually the word is applied to cancer. In this case, it's the prosecution.