America’s Most Outrageous Legal Decision of 2013

affluenza

There have been many profoundly unjust decisions in the United States this year. One of the worst would have to be the setting free of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed the unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin, who committed absolutely no crime and was literally trying to run away from Zimmerman, who was wielding a gun. Yet, an even more outrageous case has surfaced recently, which I can only succinctly  describe as: the worst legal decision of the entire year.

His name is Ethan Couch. He committed a crime. He’s sixteen years old, and he drank alcohol (despite being previously arrested for underage drinking). He also drove. While drunk. He committed a crime. He then did what almost everyone does when they drink and drive – he got into an accident. Four totally innocent bystanders died. The details, from Business Insider, are appalling:

All four were killed when Couch ran them over in his Ford-350, which also struck a parked car, which slid into another vehicle headed in the opposite direction. Couch’s pickup truck was carrying seven passengers, two of whom were severely injured.

Couch’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit.

In other words, he committed a crime. Actually, several crimes. And most reports of this story say “he killed four people,” but the case in its entirety is worse than that. For example, the two who were severely injured “cannot move or talk,” according to Time.

But Ethan Couch has something that most people don’t have – rich parents. Really rich parents. And when you have rich parents, you are a part of the elite tier of the US justice system. This is not something they write about in any guide to becoming an American citizen, but most Americans know it well. The country has a two-tier justice system.

So Couch, the killer, went to court.

But being in the top tier of the justice system, Couch has certain rights that others don’t. That is to say, money; because in the USA, money = rights. And if you have money, then you damn well have the right to give and accept it.

That’s exactly what I’m-not-proud-to-call psychologist Gary Miller did, when he accepted what I’m sure was a great sum of “rights” from the Couch family, in order to protect him from punishment.

“He never learned that sometimes you don’t get your way,” Miller said in court. “He had the cars and he had the money. He had freedoms that no young man would be able to handle.” Then he said what makes this story so outrageous. He said that Couch suffers from “affluenza.” His argument is that Couch genuinelyy didn’t know any better, because he is so rich, and so spoiled, that he has never been properly punished for his actions.

Let me boil down this argument to a simple sentence: “Couch has never been punished before… so let’s let him off easy.”

Unfortunately, when you have the legally protected term “psychologist” under your belt, no matter how bogus, irresponsible, or stupefyingly idiotic your testimony is, it is still admissible in court. And boy was it ever admitted – the judge ate it right up. More on that in a moment.

I suppose I don’t have to point out that affluenza does not appear in any version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or any diagnostic manual for that matter. In fact, I find it hard to believe that Miller himself even felt strongly about his “diagnosis.” But it’s not about that. Like most things in America, it’s just about money; and I’m sure Miller’s pockets got a lot heavier after testifying that the Couch parents were – in fact – very, very shitty parents.

So let’s be totally honest. The fact that Miller used this excuse in the first place is not the outrageous thing about this story. The outrageous thing is the decision that Judge Jean Boyd made because of it. Couch will receive absolutely no jail time – he will merely be on probation until he is 26 years old. He will also be sent to “rehab” for a year, away from his parents.

This is even more bogus than the celebrity’s “sex rehab” excuse for getting caught cheating (note: I am not implying that sex addiction does not exist and that rehab is bogus; merely that celebrities only go to rehab after being caught cheating) because of the facilities themselves.

The “Newport Academy” promises an environment of “compassion and caring,” says the Daily Mail. By Newport Beach, California, this luxurious “rehab facility” offers various services to its “patients.”

Newport specializes in equine assisted psychotherapy where patients get to ride horses and also offers mixed martial arts lessons, opportunities for massages and cooking lessons.

Nothing says “teaching you how to learn from your mistakes” better than massaging the affluenza out of you. Unless, of course, you’re in the bottom tear of the justice system, in which case you would go to a juvenile detention center along with the rest of the 99%.

I’m not sure I want this kind of spoiled child learning mixed martial arts… but considering his rich parents are paying the $450,000 for his year-long stay, that’s the way it’s going to be.

Considering millions of exchange students leave home for years without seeing their parents, I would hardly accept that this is a punishment. Obviously they will still be able to communicate; it’s just that Couch will apparently have to live there for a year. And even though it’s called “punishment,” it’s more like a camping trip away from home, in Texas.

In case you had doubts about the two-tiered justice system, the same judge sentenced a 14-year-old black boy to 10 years of juvenile detention after killing just one person with a single strong punch in March 2012. Since that boy was in the lower tier, he was punished like he should have been. Couch, however, killed four and severely injured more, but had his parents’ money to keep him out of detention. So he only received ten years of “don’t let me catch you doing this again!”

Time had another great article on this nonsense, which included the following:

[. . .] Ultimately, aside from Couch, the case has more losers than winners. The criminal justice system will suffer from the impression it is classist and unreliable. Psychology will take a hit for being linked to the affluenza term, despite it not being a product of psychological science. And the case will add to the unfair characterization of kids as spoiled, entitled brats, despite the fact that most youth are not. But the worst outcome, of course, is for the victims and their families who have been denied justice.

I still feel like Trayvon Martin’s case was one of the biggest miscarriages of justice I have ever seen, but the trial and outcome of this case was so astonishingly ludicrous that I have to award it with the distinction of the most outrageous legal decision of 2013.

Malcolm X once said “Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.

Sure.

But if you’re a rich man, you buy it.

This entry was posted in Abnormal & Clinical Psych, Biographical, Culture, Legal Issues, Psychology. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to America’s Most Outrageous Legal Decision of 2013

  1. Donna Shreve says:

    I came across your site when doing research on police arrest quotas. I live in Philadelphia, PA, USA, and loved your your piece about Mayor Nutter (who was educated at a Jesuit prep school, which should give you a clue to his beyond houseboy behavior) closing dozens of our public schools due to lack of funds. And, at the same time a new prison was in the making. I worked for over ten years in a nonprofit that tried to advocate for prisoners in Philadelphia and all of Pennsylvania’s prisons. The city’s prisons were in such bad shape and so overcrowded, that they were forced once again by the settlement terms of a former lawsuit to pay daily fines until the overcrowding and other violations were once again addressed. Yet, the Philadelphia Police were at the same period going crazy after arresting people.
    Every day mostly young Black or Latino men would walk into our office and come to my desk tell me their stories. It did not take long to for me to see that several neighborhoods were being targeted – ones that bordered on newly gentrified areas. They were even going after 15-year-old warrants for parking tickets, anything to get a man in jail and out of work long enough to lose his job, then his house. There goes one more minority in the area! They even arrested a man attending a wedding who had flown in from Atlanta, GA and they gave him a non-working calling card to make a call out for help. He wound up waiting a week before he was even arraigned and he said to me that he was kept in a cell with seven men packed in so tight one had to lay with his head against the toilet. They dropped all charges and released him, but his watch, good dress suit, and shoes along with his wallet containing his plane ticket home had been stolen! All of these items were taken from him by the police when he was arrested and itemized and he signed a form acknowledging they had taken custody of these items until his release. I called the police district and all I got was a run around. The items were not worth enough to get a lawyer after them, and they knew it; they do this “fishing” all the time! I managed to get travelers’ aid to pay his plane fare home; and he was ever so grateful. The last thing he said to me was,” I come from the South and I thought we had we had it bad down there! This is the last time I will ever come back to this God forsaken place.”

    I grew up in a public housing project and I was a good girl and a straight-A student. By the age of nine I had seen my first Police instigated riot and from then learned to fear and hate most of them. In my lifetime (55 years) I have met about 5 good cops. When you live in in the projects you have no rights. If you call the police for help, they will not come, and God help you if they are in your neighborhood, because everyone is a criminal. To this day, I always stop and get involved if I see police stopping a minority – I just politely walk up and stand there. If I am told to leave, I say I am not breaking the law. I take pictures if I see it’s needed and write down the badge number and car number. During Desert Storm (please spare me the apologies)I learned from from an Afghani coworker whose brothers drove taxis that the Philadelphia Police were routinely harassing them. I witnessed this several times and intervened, refusing to leave the scene unless the cop could prove to me what offense the taxi driver had committed other than looking MiddleEastern, which annoyed them profusely. I think they left me alone because I was white and had my young daughter with me. My daughter thought I was a pretty cool mom then.

    Please forgive my poor writing skills, I am battling advanced Lyme Disease with many co-infections (all of which came from a bioweapons lab near Lyme CT) My disease was created by germ warfare expert Erich Traub who first was recruited from his native Germany by John D. Rockefeller’s eugenics funding. They gave him his own lab and he brought the disease, which until then, never existed in the US, packed inside his army of ticks. When the war broke out, we kind enough to lend Dr. Traub to Hitler who put him second in command under Himmler. After the war, the US Government picked up the tab and paid to have the psychopath Traub return via Operation Paperclip and set him up in Lab 257 on Plum Island not far off the coast from Lyme, CT. where the first outbreak occurred, hence the name. No medical insurer will pay to treat advanced Lyme disease, just a tick bite, if you find it immediately and get a bull’s-eye rash, but as few as 30-40 percent get the rash. The nymph form of the tick can still give you the infections, yet it is as small as a poppy seed. As many half who have this, never saw the tick. Once the disease goes systemic it infects every organ and attacts the brain and spinal cord, where it is so hard to get antibiotics to. Plus there are NONE made to treat this and the even deadlier co-infection I have: Babesia, which infects your red blood cells and can kill you. The idiotic Red Cross just recently admitted that the blood supply is contaminated. I have been calling and writing to them about this for four years. This is now a plague far bigger than AIDS, and the government is going to do nothing about it. Lyme is for wealthy people to spend all their money on. I am poor, so I have a death sentence. Eugenics = good hearts, honesty, with no greed = not wanted.

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