Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A 16-year old boy goes out with his friends. They steal liquor from a Walmart. He drives drunk and kills 4 people and severely injures two of his own friends who were thrown from the truck. He faces 20 years in prison, but gets 10 years of probation instead on the defense that his affluent parents didn’t give him any boundaries so it was really their fault. Instead, the 16-year old is sent to a $500,000 per year counseling facility. Quite the joke, huh? Well, that is is the story of Ethan Couch.
The Texas teen had a blood-alcohol level of .24 and he also had a valium in his system at the time of the crash. One of his friends is still in the hospital with severe brain damage and there were 9 other bystanders who were injured. Prior to sentencing, an expert summarized his defense:
He said Couch got whatever he wanted. As an example, Dr. G. Dick Miller (psychologist) said Couch’s parents gave no punishment after police ticketed the then-15-year-old when he was found in a parked pickup with a passed out, undressed 14-year-old girl.
Miller also pointed out that Couch was allowed to drive at 13. He said the teen was emotionally flat and needed years of therapy. At the time of the fatal wreck, Couch had a blood alcohol content of .24, said Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson. It is illegal for a minor to drive with any amount of alcohol in his or her system.
I don’t think it’s necessary to mention Couch’s race. I won’t even open that box. The more important lens here, is class. If the defense that a child of privilege with absent parents should be spared jail time in lieu of treatment, can the same logic be used for the poor? Many of the children who commit crimes do so because their parents cannot set boundaries for a myriad of reasons, ranging from working long hours to drug abuse and everything in between. Should they not be sent to treatment facilities to work out their issues? How many young people who are in jail today would be removed if they could use that defense? It makes me quake with anger to think about this young man with a prior record who is allotted needed treatment and a slap on the wrist because he is affluent, whilst children who are charged with much smaller offenses are carted away to detention centers that only further disrupt their psychological states.
Is this justice? Ask Eric Boyles.
Eric Boyles, who lost both his wife and daughter, broke his silence for the first time after the sentencing.
“There…there are just some things that even today…are just too difficult to talk about. At this point, we are trying to take life one day at a time. I do look forward to the day that we can put some of this behind us. Today could have been a good start at that…and unfortunately the wounds that it opened only makes the healing process that much greater,” said Boyles through tears.