A judge’s choice to give 16-year-old Ethan Couch 10 years of probation for the deadly accident sparked outrage from relatives of those killed and has led to questions about the defense strategy. A psychologist testified in Couch’s trial in a Fort Worth juvenile court that as a result of “affluenza,” the boy should not receive the maximum 20-year prison sentence prosecutors were seeking.
Prosecutors have said that the boy was driving with seven of his friends in his Ford F-350 on June 15th when the vehicle struck a group of people on the side of the road on the outskirts of Fort Worth. The people who were hit were Breanna Mitchell (whose car had broken down), Brian Jennings, and Holly and Shelby Boyles; all four were killed. Ethan Couch pleaded guilty last week to manslaughter and assault while intoxicated. He had been speeding, and had Valium and a high level of alcohol in his blood, according to testimony. The prosecutors wanted the boy to be sentenced to 20 years in prison but he received 10 years of probation with the affluenza defense.
The term “affluenza” was made popular in the late 1990s by Jessie O’Neill (the granddaughter of a past president of General Motors) when she wrote the book “The Golden Ghetto: The Psychology of Affluence.” It’s since been used to describe a condition in which children – mostly from richer families – have a sense of privilege, are irresponsible, make justifications for poor behavior, and sometimes experiment in drugs and alcohol, explained Dr. Gary Buffone, a Jacksonville, Fla. , psychologist who does family wealth counseling.
I personally don’t understand how the affluenza defense works; so because his parents neglected him and gave him all the money he wanted to do with whatever he pleased, he gets off on the murder of four people? Because he didn’t know any better? Now-a-days whether your parents teach you or not, it has become more common knowledge not to drink and drive and that you can suffer consequences if you do. I think it’s a cop out to try and say that Ethan Couch didn’t know any better. The judge in this case stated that Ethan Couch is responsible for this incident; not his parents. Although, the judge still gave Ethan 10 years of probation due to thinking he needs to go through therapy that he won’t get in a juvenile detention center.
Ethan Couch has lived a life of entitlement and privilege and now he is also getting out of murdering four people because of it. I don’t consider the affluenza defense to be a real disease and think that he should have been sentenced real time in jail for what he did. He will be sent to a isolated home near Newport Beach, CA that offers intensive therapy. His parents will be paying about $450,000 a year or more for this; which just makes me even more upset because his punishment seems more like a vacation than anything else. I really hope that because of this case that future attorneys don’t end up using the affluenza defense to get other people out of suffering the consequences of their actions, too. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll free 1-800-951-6135.