Ethan Couch Sentenced to Probation, No Jail Time After DUI Crash Left Four Dead

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Ethan Couch, 16, was sentenced to 10 years' probation but no jail time this week, following a drunk driving accident that left four people dead.

The controversial argument made by his defense, and now the debate over whether the punishment fits his crime, have made this a national story.

To the families of the four deceased victims, Ethan Couch was a killer on the road, a drunken, reckless driver who caused the crash that ended lives.

To the defense, the youth is himself a victim of "affluenza," according to one psychologist - a product of wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits.

The judge appears to have bought into the defense theory, or at least the idea that he's a young man in need of treatment, because he's not going to jail.

The decision disappointed prosecutors and stunned victims' family members, who say they feel that Couch got off too easy. Prosecutors sought 20 years.

"Let's face it. ... There needs to be some justice here," Eric Boyles, who lost his wife and daughter, told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night.

"For 25 weeks, I've been going through a healing process. And so when the verdict came out, I mean, my immediate reaction is, I'm back to week 1."

"We have accomplished nothing. My healing process is out the window."

"There are absolutely no consequences for what occurred. The primary message has to absolutely be that money and privilege can't buy justice in this country."

Lawyers for Couch argued that the teen's parents should share part of the blame, as they never set limits for him and gave him everything he wanted.

A psychologist called by the defense testified that the teen's family felt wealth bought privilege, and that Couch's life could be turned around without them in it.

Rather than send him to prison, with a few years of treatment and no contact with them, the psychologist argued, the damage could be undone.

Ethan Couch was sentenced by a juvenile court judge Tuesday. If he violates the terms of his probation, he could face up to 10 years of incarceration.

Judge Jean Boyd told the court that she would not release Couch to his parents, but would work to find the teen a long-term treatment facility.

Earlier on the night of the accident that changed their lives, June 15, 2013, the 16-year-old and some friends had stolen beer from a local Walmart.

Three hours after the crash, tests showed he had a blood alcohol content of 0.24, three times the legal limit, according to the local district attorney's office.

Eric Boyles' wife, Hollie, and daughter, Shelby, left their home to help Breanna Mitchell, whose SUV broke down. Brian Jennings, a youth pastor driving by, also stopped to help.

All four were killed when the teen's pickup plowed into the pedestrians on a road in Burleson, south of Fort Worth. Couch's vehicle also struck a parked car.

That vehicle then slid into another vehicle headed in the opposite direction. Two people riding in the bed of the teen's pickup were tossed in the crash 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 as a result of the accident.

All this left Couch's defense attorney in a tough spot with a lot of people upset at him, and despite getting the result he wanted, he's well aware of it.

"There is nothing the judge could have done to lessen the suffering for any of those families," said defense lawyer Scott Brown, CNN affiliate KTVT reported.

"(The judge) fashioned a sentence that is going to keep Ethan under the thumb of the justice system for the next 10 years," the attorney went on said.

"And if Ethan doesn't do what he's supposed to do, if he has one misstep at all, then this judge, or an adult judge when he's transferred, can then incarcerate him."

VOTE: Is Ethan Couch's sentence fair?

 

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so many times these little rich white kids has gotten away with murder. but a black kid can get 10yrs for punching because he's poor. also ethan's defense attorneys said that he wouldn't survive in jail. then in that case he should have learned how to fight. how many black and hispanics are locked for years for lesser crimes than this one

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We need a real life Dexter and the gulf coast current.

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The average Joe would be behind bars for 20 years. Justice blind in this case...this judge should be removed.

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..................and, as if to add insult to injury, "if he has one misstep at all, then this judge, or an adult judge when he's transferred, can then incarcerate him." Can or WILL incarcerate him?

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Can the author please take a few classes in writing and journalism? Money should not be able to buy justice in this country, but it clearly does. The parents of said tender snowflake need to be held accountable for their part in all of this. A hefty dose of reparations to the families might go along way to cure their affluenza however, Tender Snowflake Ethan needs some serious jail time. Ten years of probation teaches him money will get you out of anything, even murder. What difference does it make if Ethan was using a car or a Colt 45 to kill these people? They are just as dead. Being drunk behind the wheel of a car is brandishing a lethal weapon with intent to use it.

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I keep trying to put myself in someone else's shoes to try to see this objectively and clearly.
If it were my son, would I hope the judge made this decision to "spare" him because he was just a kid? Yes, yes I would. The difference is that I AM an excellent and very active parent, I am not priveleged and neither are my children, we have little money left over at the end of every week. Therefore, it is highly unlikely my son would be "spared." That is one of the biggest injustices here...not the sentence itself, but the fact that it is one that is consistently handed down only to the wealthy elite. The sad fact is, and law reinforces it daily, the elite have different rules. This judge feels, as do all who make this kind of decision, that this rich kid's life is so important that instead of punishing him for killing four likely middle-income people, we can use up a little bit of his parents money to put him in an elite rest home for a few years and give them a break from having to be parents, and him a break from being able to do whatever the heck he wants to do whenever he wants to do it. The survivors of those killed paid the ultimate price for parents who weren't parents and those killed paid with their lives for a kid who has the best education money can buy, but apparently doesn't know right from wrong, which developmentally, children firmly grasp by the age of 4 whether they attend a Head Start Program or an elitist day school. Really, really, really sad.

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@ fuzzled

Very well said!!

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What the hell???? Ok I can see it was a accident..... But we're taught you do something wrong you get punished for it ... All this did was show if you have money you get away with misbehaving and the law is nothing to you. Not to mention the fact the message it sends to teens about drinking.. Four people died and two injured , one who can no longer talk or walk..... C'mon judge....

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@ Natassja

He was DRUNK!!! Accidents happen to sober people.

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So, for the kids raised in poverty with drug addicted parents, will the same rules apply?... Somehow I think not... So it books down to money. Sounds like the judge may have had some bias here.

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Affluenza? So we're supposed to use wealth as a justification for poor parenting? No that's no excuse.
What the court is telling the child is that, what you did is not your fault and that it's okay to drink and drive because if you do get caught, all you have to do is pull the wealthy parents card. How pitiful

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When you do something illegal common sense tells you there are going to be consequences, you drink and drive, who doesn't know it's wrong?