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Texas Rich Kid Beat The Case

Due To “Affluenza”

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Ethan Couch Kills Four and Escapes Prison Sentence Due To A Defense Based Upon His Inattentive Parents, An Accommodating Judge And Complete Disregard For Consequences


By Jeff Moses
Modern Times Magazine

Dec. 12, 2013 — When 16-year-old Ethan Couch got drunk with his friends one June night in Texas and went out driving in his pick up truck. While he was out on his 70 m.p.h. joy ride, Couch crashed into a group of people who were standing outside of their cars on the side of the road. As a result, Brian Jennings, mother and daughter Hollie and Shelby Boyles, and Brianna Mitchell, were killed. Nine others were injured including two of his passengers.

What is the punishment for such a heinous crime from the Texas justice system? One might think he would have gotten the proverbial “book” thrown at him, but that was not the case. Actually, Couch got 10 years probation and a one-to-two-year stint in a rehab center at a price tag of $450,000. You see, Couch suffered from a disease known as “affluenza,” according to a defense witness.

Obviously, this disease impeded his ability to distinguish acceptable behavior from being an irresponsible privileged psychopath.

“Affluenza” is a disease, according to psychologist G. Dick MIller, which is a product of a wealthy upbringing. Apparently, Couch’s parents were unable to instill in him a “rational link between behavior and consequences,” as put by Huffington post reporter Jim Douglas. So basically the argument is that because the parents allowed Couch to get away with murder, the state of Texas should too.

Some of the instances which the defense claimed contributed to Couch’s “affluenza,” were when a 15-year old Couch was discovered in a parked pickup truck sleeping next to an undressed 14-year old female. Couch was ticketed for the occurrence but supposedly no punishment was passed down by his parents.

Assuming he had the minor restricted license that Texas has for 15-year olds, it sounds as if the crimes committed were minor at most. High schoolers are supposed to be out in the world, mixing it up, and having fun. I hope if I should have a teenager of my own some day that I am open-minded enough to realize that sex will be a part of their life and not punish them for experimenting with it.

It was also noted by the defense that Couch was allowed by his parents to drive at the age of 13. While I do see this as an extremely irresponsible move by his parents, I do not see it as the building blocks of a life devoid of any sort of responsibility.

Even the atrocious act in and of itself, getting drunk and killing four people and injuring nine others, I do not see as some unredeemable act. I think a 16-year old kid got drunk and made a very bad mistake that he will have to live with for the rest of his life. I really think that Texas made the right choice in not sending this kid to prison where he would no doubt have been brutalized in one way or another.

The problem in this is obviously the issue of class and race. Would Ethan Couch have been handled so gently if he were poor? If he were black? If he were an immigrant? Millions of poor children grow up in homes without parental guidance due to parents working low paying jobs, with long hours, and are able to do as they please. But when they commit crimes they certainly are not diagnosed with “affluenza,” and sent to rehab by a juvenile court judge. Even the fact that the 16-year-old culprit was tried in juvenile court is a testament to his affluence.

In my opinion, if the culprit were poor he would have no doubt been sent to the adult court system, tried and crucified for his crimes.

I sincerely hope Couch is given the help he needs, which I hope includes treatment for his sociopathy, a disease which so many wealthy people show symptoms of. I also hope that the Texas justice system becomes an example for the rest of the country and world in dealing with minors, and adults for that matter.

I hope the next thief, robber, kidnapper, rapist and murderers arrested in Texas aren’t judged only for the crimes they commit but also for the crimes that have been committed against them. I hope that when young, poor minority and immigrant folks are brought before the justice system the possibility that their family life was traumatic for them is brought up and acknowledged. I hope treatment and compassion become staples of the justice system, and it becomes more human and treatment oriented than punishment and profit oriented.

But I know is that that will not happen. I know the poor will always be taken advantage of and abused. I know that the precedent set by this case is a precedent that has existed in this country and in this world since the invention of hierarchy, those on top can do what they want, and those on bottom can go to jail.

Jeff Moses a senior contributor at Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at
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