Teen Drink-Drive Killer’s Sentence Slammed
A 16-year-old avoids prison after lawyers argued he had “affluenza” – which reportedly affects the children of wealthy families.
By Sky News US Team
A man whose wife and daughter were killed by a teenage drink-driver has spoken of his anger after the boy’s wealthy background was used as a defence and he avoided prison.
Ethan Couch, 16, could have faced up to 20 years behind bars after losing control of his vehicle and killing four pedestrians in Fort Worth, Texas.
Instead, he was given 10 years’ probation – plus rehab – after his lawyers argued his reckless behaviour was due to “affluenza”.
The condition is said by some psychologists to affect young people who come from rich families.
Defence witness Gary Miller, a psychologist, said Couch should not get the maximum prison sentence that was being sought by prosecutors.
Mr Miller said Couch had grown up in a house where the parents often argued and eventually divorced.
He told State District Judge Jean Boyd the mother had spoiled him, telling the court: “Her mantra was that if it feels good, do it.”
Couch, whose blood-alcohol was three times the legal limit at the time of the crash, had admitted he was drinking and driving and confessed to intoxication manslaughter.
Eric Boyles, whose wife Hollie and his 21-year-old daughter Shelby were among those killed in the crash in June, told Fox News: “We knew the maximum sentence was a 20-year sentence which in the juvenile system meant the boy would be eligible for parole in two years.
“And while recognising that that’s, you know, kind of the circumstances we were dealing with, I wasn’t really happy with those circumstances.
“You look at 180 years of future life taken from the four individuals.
“And so you sit and think that even a two year sentence before he is eligible for parole didn’t exactly seem fair under those circumstances.”
He added: “Money always seems to keep the boy out of trouble. This was one time I did ask the court, that for justice, for money not to prevail and ultimately today I felt like money did prevail.”
Speaking after the case, another psychologist, Dr Gary Buffone, said “affluenza” was never meant to be used as a defence in court cases.
He said the condition, which was popularised in the 1990s, was attributed to children with a sense of entitlement, and who are irresponsible and sometimes use drugs and alcohol.
“The simple term would be spoiled brat,” he said. “The defence is laughable, the disposition is horrifying … not only haven’t the parents set any consequences, but it’s being reinforced by the judge’s actions.”
The American Psychiatric Association says it does not recognise the diagnosis of “affluenza”.
Judge Boyd said the intensive rehab therapy Couch needs might not be available in the Texas juvenile justice system.
However, he could be treated at a centre in California which was proposed by the defence. The estimated yearly treatment cost of $450,000 (£276,000) is set to be paid by his parents, according to Fort Worth newspaper the Star Telegram.
Yeah, that decision was a out of control…
Amen! God bless
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