by AMBER KELLY Photographer
Ethan Couch, a 16-year-old from Texas, was sentenced to 10 years of probation by Judge Jean Boyd on December 10, 2013 after killing four people in a drunk driving accident. Despite being consuming alcohol underage, Couch’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit of an adult when he crashed his car, killing Hollie and Shelby Boyles, Breanna Mitchell, and youth pastor Brian Jennings.
Couch had also been under the influence of Valium, along with the beer that he stole, back in June when the crash occurred. He had been driving with seven other people in his car, one who became comatose after the crash and remains paralyzed.
The victims of Couch’s drunk driving had been in the middle of performing a good Samaritan act when they were hit. Mitchell had been stranded on the road after having car troubles, so mother and daughter Hollie and Shelby Boyles had come to her aid. Jennings had then passed by in his car, stopping to assist the group. It was at this time that they were all killed by the intoxicated Couch.
“This story is so sad and it makes me angry, too. These people were innocent and just helping out others, and then because Couch made stupid choices, they died. I feel so bad for their families. Couch deserves jail time and a lot of it, not probation. I don’t know what the judge was thinking,” says senior Jennifer Park.
Unfortunately for the loved ones of those killed, no justice has been served in the court. While Couch was being tried in a Fort Worth juvenile court, a psychologist testified in his defense, claiming that Couch suffered from “affluenza.”
Affluenza is defined as being a psychological condition where young people from wealthy families essentially do not know right from wrong. Those who suffer from this condition feel little to no motivation and are extremely irresponsible.
Although affluenza is not considered to be a real medical term or even a diagnosis, a psychologist testified on Couch’s behalf that because he suffers from affluenza, he should not be convicted. Apparently, the judge agreed. While Couch could have served at least 20 years in prison for his actions that led to the deaths of four people, he was only sentenced to 10 years of probation.
Along with his probation, Couch is being sent to a rehabilitation center near Newport Beach, California, which costs $450,000 a year.
The term affluenza was made popular years ago in the book “The Golden Ghetto: The Psychology of Affluence”, although the author of this book asserts that affluenza was never meant to be used as a defense in legal cases.
Over the years, affluenza has been cited more and more to rationalize the actions of the young and wealthy.
“This is ridiculous. Affluenza does not exist and it does not explain why Couch did what he did. He chose to steal the beer and drive while drunk and high. It’s his fault, and nothing can explain away why he did this. He killed four people, and I don’t care if he was rich or poor. It was his choices that led to this outcome,” says sophomore Abigayle Cicoria.
Many believe that Couch’s case should be appealed to a higher court, but it has yet to be seen if that will happen.
Do you think affluenza is a real condition?