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."
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