Thursday, December 12, 2013

Money Can't Buy Happiness, But It Will Buy Probation In Manslaughter Cases In Texas

[Clockwise from top left]:
Brian Jennings, Breanna Mitchell,
Hollie and Shelby Boyles
I remember being in high school and the nearly weekly weekend parties at someone’s house whose parents were out of town, out for dinner, or just upstairs ignoring us. There was almost always alcohol, there was always a drunk girl or guy throwing up; there was always drama.

My parents had a theory, though. They knew about the booze, and knew that, more likely than not, I might imbibe, so they asked that if I drank, that I call them for a ride home and not get into the car with a drunk friend and risk my life, or anyone else’s life, trying to get home. I never did that because I knew that calling my parents and telling them I was too drunk to drive would only get me into serious trouble once I sobered up. So, I made choices: I wouldn’t drink, and therefore get home all by myself, or I’d stay the night at the party and not drive until I had sobered up.

Apparently those choices never crossed the mind of Ethan Couch, or his parents, because he was too busy being spoiled and ignored by them to learn anything.

Ethan Couch: Poor Little Rich Boy
See, Ethan Couch is a 16-year-old Texas boy who went out one night and got drunk — his blood alcohol level was .24, three times the legal limit for an adult — and then drove home and caused an accident that killed four people. But this week, for the crime he committed, Ethan Couch was sentenced to ten years’ probation — with no time ­in jail — because Ethan Couch was himself a victim of a heretofore unknown illness called “affluenza.”

And yes, it is exactly what it sounds like.

The defense claimed that Ethan Couch was not responsible for stealing beer from a local Wal-Mart, getting drunk, getting into a car, and slaughtering four innocent people because he is a victim, the product of wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits for him, and he was obviously too stupid to realize that driving drunk was dangerous. The defense made special note that, in an earlier incident, Ethan Couch was not punished for being passed out drunk in a car with a naked fourteen-year-old girl, so he just didn’t know better; he just thought having rich parents meant you could do whatever you wanted to, and get away with it.

That night that Ethan Couch drank himself into a stupor and got into a car because his parents were too busy getting rich to parent him, Hollie Boyles and her daughter Shelby received a phone call from a friend, Breanna Mitchell, whose SUV had broken down. At the scene, Brian Jennings, a youth pastor, was driving past and also stopped to help.

They were all killed when Ethan Couch’s truck plowed into them, then struck a parked car, which then slid into another vehicle driving in the opposite direction. Two of Ethan’s friends, riding in the bed of his pickup, were tossed out and severely injured; one suffered internal injuries and broken bones, while the other will never be able to walk or talk again because of a brain injury.

But Ethan Couch is not responsible because his parents didn’t parent him. Defense attorneys think the parents should share in the blame because they never set limits on him, and called a psychologist to the stand to testify that Ethan Couch was a product of "affluenza." He reportedly testified that Ethan Couch’s family felt that wealth bought privilege, and that Ethan Couch's life could be turned around with one to two years of treatment and no contact with his parents.

Judge Jean Boyd
So, for the vehicular manslaughter of four innocent people, for the injury to two of his friends, for driving drunk, for being underage and driving drunk, Judge Jean Boyd sentenced Ethan Couch to ten year’s probation and removed him from his parents’ home. Couch will be sent to a private counseling center that costs $450,000, which will be paid for by his father.

Well, I guess it’s a good thing for Ethan Couch that mommy and daddy have money, though all that money and privilege can’t bring Holly and Shelby Boyles, Brian Jennings, Breanna Mitchell, and Ethan Couch’s  two friends back to their families.

I have always heard that people with money were treated differently, but I didn’t want to believe it. Now, though, it’s quite clear: money, even if it’s your parents’ money, can buy you out of jail for killing four people with your car.

Oh, but don’t fret, because Judge Jean Boyd, wants y’all to know that if Ethan Couch steps out of line even once, he’ll do real jail time for murdering people with his vehicle.

That makes me feel so much better ….


Raybeard said...

This lunacy isn't a million miles away from the verdict of Dan White killing Moscone & Harvey Milk. ("Not my fault! Blame McDonalds!")
Still, it's good to know that no matter how much money one happens to have - or not to have - everyone will be treated the same. And, as you point out, if little Ethan 'misbehaves' just once more he'll really be for it. He must be quaking in his tiny boots.

Ask the Cool Cookie said...

But this is the way America's juvenile justice is set up.

Remember, Murder in the 1st Degree has to be premeditated. There would need to be evidence that he purposely planned to kill those four people.

The law, and for a very good reason, treat juveniles differently than adults because of a biological fact: the prefrontal cortex - that part of the human mind that makes decisions doesn't form all of its connections until some people reach their late 20s. And if his parents never taught him to make decisions, and addictive personality aside, this kid is a loose cannon in society.

What the courts and family members of the victims should have done is gone after the parents, who are legally responsible for their child's actions in a civil case.

Not an excuse, but this is how America addresses juvenile crime. Having worked with kids in DYS facilities, I can tell you that there are a lot of fucked up kids out there who are being warehoused at taxpayer expense and they will more than likely reoffend and end up in the adult system.

Bob Slatten said...

He wasn't treated this way because he's a juvenile, and I never suggested 1st degree murder. But for the defense to use "affluenza" as an excuse means that every time a rich kid does something wrong they'll be able to blame they parents for it.
It's ridiculous.
And i hope the parents are sued civilly and lose all their money and then learn how to raise a child not to be a self-entitled, drunk driving, murdering little brat.

Anonymous said...

Too bad this didn't happen in SoCal. That punk would be going away for at least 50 years.

Robert said...

Bob. I couldn't agree more with the things you said. I saw this story on the news last night and was livid. I am a believer in flexible sentencing when necessary, but this is beyond acceptable.

I also hope that the parents are sued for every penny they have. And if there was no parental "supervision" for the kid, shouldn't the parents be charged with child neglect?

Helen Lashbrook said...

I am not sure that this boy will learn responsibility at the multi million dollar hideaway he is going to in California, where he will be surrounded by more rich kids. If he is to learn responsibility then surely he needs to learn what it is to be without money; not stuck in a rich enclave?
Does he have any siblings? If so hopefully they will be taken away from these reckless parents and given a proper upbringing.

the dogs' mother said...

My prevailing thought, when I taught a class at Juvie was, "How in 15 short years did someone take a sweet little baby and turn him into this?'

viktor kerney said...

This is so sad and very telling about privilege

Anonymous said...


Bob, please tell me that's not real.

Sean R.

anne marie in philly said...

da fuq? lock this little bastard up NOW (along with george zimmerman) before he kills again. and you KNOW he will!

Ask the Cool Cookie said...

Bob, I just laid out the reasonings behind the juvenile justice system. It's how it works, by trying to treat the youth as someone who can be rehabilitated.

I'm sure that if we had access to the court transcripts, there would be additional considerations to the sentencing.

I will say that we now live in area sandwiched between areas of extreme wealth and 30k a year private schools. And the kids up her, who have every thing handed to them, seem to be far more reckless, because someone else has always bailed them out.

Ron said...


I read about this a few days ago. It made me want to throw up. Especially since I know a person whose daughter is now serving 12 years in jail (without probation) for driving drunk (after a lunch) and getting on the expressway the wrong way in an area she wasn't familiar with and hitting a car head on containing a father and his 12 year old son. The son was killed, the father injured. She was sentenced to one year for each year of the child's death. Obviously a different judge passed this sentence. Oh, one more small item. The woman who was sentenced (the daughter of my neighbor) was not rich. Nope, she was just like you and me. She didn't suffer from "affluenza."

Debbie said...

The parents should be sent to prison for being idiots and raising a spoiled brat. FOUR PEOPLE are DEAD and one forever ruined, unable to walk or live a normal life. It is tragic beyond words but as you said, this little jerk was already caught drunk off his ass with a naked 14 year old girl!?!?!?! WTF! The surest way to cure him of his "Affluenza" would have been to sentence him to some serious time with some hard core criminals. See how he other half lives. UGH. And that judge is a MORON.

Frank said...

Justice tempered with mercy, juvenile development considerations, all fine. "Affluenza" defense: outrageous.

Joe from Indiana said...

Craziness and if I were from Texas I would pursue the following

Texas judges may be removed in one of four ways:
The state commission on judicial conduct investigates, and if warranted, prosecutes allegations of misconduct by Texas judges. Upon a commission recommendation of removal or retirement, the supreme court selects a review tribunal from among court of appeals judges to verify the findings and enter a judgment. Judges may appeal decisions of the review tribunal to the supreme court.

Judges may be removed by the governor on the address of two thirds of the house and senate.

Judges may be impeached by the house of representatives and removed by two thirds of the senate.

The supreme court may remove district court judges from office.