Update: For the victims’ families, a simple slap-on-the-wrist because of his “affluenza” defense just will not do. Five lawsuits have been filed against the Texas teen who killed four during a drunken joy ride. Eric Boyles, on behalf of wife and daughter Hollie and Shelby who were hit by Couch’s vehicle, will sue for $1 million in damages.
Hollie and Shelby were helping Breanna Mitchell, whose car broke down in the middle of the road; Brian Jennings, a pastor, also stopped by to lend a hand. Mitchell and Jennings were also killed in the impact. Both families are suing for unspecified damages. Lucas McConnell, who was riding with Jennings, was also injured in the crash. His parents are asking for unspecified compensation.
Sergio Molina, who was riding in the bed of the truck, was ejected from the vehicle during the wreck. He suffered a severe brain injury and is now unable to talk. The Molina family is asking for $20 million in damages.
[h/t Black Youth Project]
December 16, 2013
You just might need to sit down for this story. It’s a strange saga that has jolted a wave of anger around the nation.
Ethan Couch, 16, stole two cases of beer from Walmart before cavorting around town, inebriated, with seven other passengers in a pick-up truck. The North Texas teen, while speeding through a dark rural town, slammed into four pedestrians and killed them, according to ThinkProgress.
Officials determined that Couch had a blood-alcohol level thrice the legal limit; the four pedestrians — Brian Jennings, 43; Breanna Mitchell, 24; Shelby Boyles, 21; and her mom Hollie Boyles, 52 — were tending a flat tire when they were fatally struck by the teen’s Ford F-350. Two passengers riding on the bed of Couch’s truck were launched into the air and severely injured. “One is no longer able to move or talk because of a brain injury, while the other suffered internal injuries and broken bones,” CNN says.
Despite the severity of this incident, however, Couch got off scot-free, no jail time. The judged granted him a 10-year probation and long-term treatment at a rehabilitation center. Apparently, a psychologist who testified on behalf of Couch presented a very convincing case: The teen has “affluenza” — “a syndrome that keeps someone from a wealthy background from learning that bad behavior has consequences,” according to LA Times.
Because Couch was supposedly a product of lax parenting due to his family’s riches, the teen — who pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter — escaped a 20-year maximum sentence behind bars and his father agreed to foot the $450,000-per-year expense for rehab. It’s an outlandish verdict since similar cases in Texas ended with harsher consequences — and all of them had smaller death tolls.
Eric Boyles, who lost is wife and daughter that horrific night on June 15, revealed his frustrations following the judge’s ruling on CNN:
“Money always seems to keep you out of trouble,” Boyles told the Star-Telegram. “Ultimately today, I felt that money did prevail. If [he] had been any other youth, I feel like the circumstances would have been different.”
Boyles makes a fair point. If Couch were born of a lower socioeconomic status, it’s highly unlikely that the verdict would have been the same. “What is the likelihood if this was an African-American, inner-city kid that grew up in a violent neighborhood to a single mother who is addicted to crack and he was caught two or three times … what is the likelihood that the judge would excuse his behavior and let him off because of how he was raised?” Dr. Suniya Luthar, a psychologist at Columbia University notes.
It’s unfathomable that the judge was convinced by such a frivolous defense. It’s because he’s a spoiled brat, your honor! As the Texas teen escapes prison time for such a heinous crime, jaws around the nation dropped.
“Teen gets off for being “too wealthy”, This is an example of how the 1% wins in the criminal justice system….” one Twitter user notes.
The case is also impacting the state’s governor’s race. At this point, however, there might not be much recourse now that the judge has ruled.
Below, Anderson Cooper grills the psychologist who recommended the facility that Couch will be residing in. His schedule will include equine therapy (hanging out with horses) and cooking therapy.