A juvenile court judge sentenced 16-year-old Ethan Couch to 10 years’ probation Tuesday for the drunken driving crash that killed four people.
Judge Jean Boyd could have sentenced Couch to 20 years behind bars.
Youth pastor Brian Jennings; mother and daughter Hollie and Shelby Boyles; and 24-year-old Breanna Mitchell died in the June 15 accident.
Boyd told the teen that he is responsible for what happened, but she didn’t believe he would receive the necessary therapy in jail.
Prior to sentencing, a psychologist called by the defense, Dr. G. Dick Miller, testified that Couch’s life could be salvaged with one to two years’ treatment and no contact with his parents.
Investigators said Couch was driving a pickup truck between 68 and 70 miles-per-hour in a 40 mph zone. The four who died were standing on the side of the road outside their vehicle. Nine others were hurt.
Miller said Couch’s parents gave him “freedoms no young person should have.” He called Couch a product of “affluenza,” where his family felt that wealth bought privilege and there was no rational link between behavior and consequences.
He said Couch got whatever he wanted. As an example, Miller 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 age 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 0.24, said Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson, four times the legal limit for an adult.
Unbelievable. Disgusting. This poor little rich kid killed four people — four people! — and because he suffered from “affluenza,” he won’t serve a day in jail. Not one day. Good work, Dr. G. Dick Miller and Judge Jean Boyd. Even William Zanzinger got more time.
(Thanks to the reader who sent this to me.)
UPDATE: Reader JerriB adds in the comments thread:
A friend of mine worked that scene as a FWPD officer. She expects the officers to be dealing with the PTSD for a long while. The details she gave me as we talked over coffee (I’m an emergency responder, and we debrief together sometimes) were beyond what most of us can fathom. This kid was taken to the hospital for the blood draw for his test. Even after considerable time, his blood alcohol level was over 4x the legal. The whole time he was at the hospital, he was telling people the pills he took and how much alcohol he drank and was bragging about how he could hold his liquor, and after the blood draw, he asked if they were going to give him a ticket…and laughed. He knew nothing. He didn’t know he hit anyone. He didn’t know he had paralyzed one of his buddies in the truck. He remembered nothing.
I don’t think he should get 20 years. He’ll just come out of jail a leech on society. However, I think he should have to work in the morgue. I think he should have to sit with these families Christmas day and see what they experience. I think he should have to attend this youth group where these kids are asking how something so horrific could happen to their pastor. I think he should be forced to face what he did. Maybe that seems cruel to some folks, but this kid killed 4 people and has no mental or physical consequence. There is no remorse because he doesn’t remember doing anything. Maybe the best consequence he can have isn’t jail time but real time seeing what he did, not just the event but the consequences.
BUT, if he is that emotionally flat, his seeming indifference will only hurt the families more.
AND, I think his parents should be arrested for negligence and tried for homicide by association or as a participant. Give his parents the 20 years. As I recall, a few years ago, a mom was arrested for murder because she did not get her child inoculated for measles. The child didn’t get sick but was a carrier. Another child caught it from this kid at a playground or something and died. If that mom can remotely be held responsible for that child dying of measles, these parents are responsible for four counts of vehicular manslaughter and endangering minors and a whole slew of other “never get out of jail” things.