If we thought there was no justice in the O.J. Simpson trial, or the Travon Martin trial, then the Ethan Couch trial verdict will shock us even more. This case is truly an example of how money buys freedom and begs the age-old question, should our justice system focus on punishment or rehabilitation? What makes this case really different is the defense argument, Affluenza.
A 16-year old drunk driver, Ethan Couch, who stole two cases of beer from a store and killed four pedestrians while driving his Ford F-350, escaped a prison sentence because he was too rich to know better. Couch and his friends were seen on video tape stealing two cases of beer from a store. While driving with seven passengers and speeding in his Ford F-350, and with a blood-alcohol level at three times the legal limit, Couch hit and killed four pedestrians. Despite confessing to intoxication manslaughter that carries a 20-year prison sentence, Couch was sentences to 10 years’ probation.
What is Affluenza?
According to a report in USA Today, the Fort Worth, Texas juvenile court judge sentenced Couch to 10 years’ probation, noting that the parents could afford to pay for better treatment services than the state could provide. A psychologist testified that Couch should not be sentenced to prison because of Affluenza. In some cases, children afflicted with the Affluenza social condition believe they will suffer no consequences and will always get out of trouble by their wealthy parents. Apparently, irresponsible children raised in affluent environments where parents use wealth to shelter kids’ bad behavior, should not be held accountable for crimes. Sadly, for the families of the people Couch killed, the judge reinforced that notion.
As a former high school teacher, it is unbelievable to me that our justice system would even allow this kind of defense for minors who steal, speed, and kill while drunk. Affluenza is a social condition and should not be used as a legal or criminal defense. It is hard enough as a parent and a teacher to try and make a difference with young people, and help them learn right from wrong so they make good decisions. Now, we can apparently no longer rely on our justice system to reinforce those efforts and hold people responsible for their crimes if they are wealthy. This is truly a travesty of justice.
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