Is a bartender responsible for serving a mass murderer?

This story out of Texas, while tragic, gives us the opportunity to see how far communal responsibility stretches in terms of bars and restaurants that serve alcohol and the actions of their patrons who become excessively inebriated. In a Dallas suburb two years ago, a man was clearly overserved and highly intoxicated when he began acting erratically, displaying weapons and suggesting that he was going to do something violent. After leaving the bar he drove to the house of his estranged wife and killed her, along with seven of her friends. The shooter became the ninth person to die when police arrived and killed him in the ensuing shootout. So how responsible is the bartender in all of this? It’s an important question since she’s being charged with a crime. (Washington Times)

A suburban Dallas bartender is accused of continuing to serve drinks to a drunken man who later went to his estranged wife’s home and killed her and seven other people while they were watching a Dallas Cowboys game on TV two years ago.

Lindsey Glass, 27, was arrested last week and charged with a misdemeanor violation of the state’s “sale to certain persons” law, which bars the sale of alcohol to a “habitual drunkard or an intoxicated or insane person.”

According to Plano police, Glass continued to serve alcohol to Spencer Hight that September 2017 day even after it was clear he had had too much to drink. A medical examiner later determined that Hight’s blood alcohol level was four times the state’s legal limit.

Lindsey Glass is the bartender in question and she’s been charged with violating Texas’ “sale to certain persons” law. Read the details at the link, but it’s actually kind of vague. It makes no mention of any actions that the customer may engage in after leaving the establishment, only the fact that they could be considered “a habitual drunkard or an intoxicated or insane person.” The customer, in this case, could arguably be described as all three.

The punishment for the crime has quite the range on it, however, so it’s easy to see how a judge might grade the defendant on a scale based on the outcome. The law allows for a fine of anywhere from $100 to $500 and/or jail time ranging from none to one year. We can readily imagine that a bartender who served a guy who had a few too many and went outside and was pulled over by the cops for a DUI might just get the lowest fine. If the drunk hit somebody with his car, she might get a stiffer fine and perhaps even a couple of weeks in jail. In the case of a mass murderer, is it unreasonable to think that the judge will lock her up for a year? And should she be treated that way?

This case has some complicating factors. Nobody is arguing that Glass shouldn’t have been serving the shooter in his condition. That’s particularly true when you learn that at one point he was displaying a handgun and a bar worker escorted him out to his car so he could lock the gun in the trunk… and then let him back in the bar to continue drinking. Later he was spinning a large knife on the bar and saying he had some “dirty work” to do.

But for her part, Glass argues that she had tried to get the guy to not drive home. She reported his behavior to her supervisor and even went so far as to drive to the estranged wife’s house right after the shooter left. He was already there, but she called 911 to alter them before the shooting even started.

The question I have is whether or not a judge should be able to factor in what the shooter did after leaving. In the end, he might have gone out to kill someone or he might have passed out in his car in the bar’s parking lot. Either way, Lindsey Glass committed the exact same crime of serving alcohol to someone who was clearly very far over the limit. Isn’t the mass murder still the sole responsibility of the shooter, no matter how inebriated he might have been?

Lindsey Glass clearly did not serve her employer or her customer well on that fateful night. (The bar has since given up its liquor license anyway.) But it doesn’t seem as if she should bear the responsibility for the murders that followed. If she receives a stiffer punishment than is usually given out for overserving, that will be an inappropriate sentence in my opinion.