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'Affluenza' defense psychologist butts heads with Anderson Cooper over case

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People are buzzing about Ethan Couch and the “affluenza” defense used by his lawyer and defense-called psychologist Dr. G. Dick Miller. Though Couch killed four and injured many others in a drunk-driving crash last summer, the 16-year-old got probation and a trip to rehab. Anderson Cooper talked to Dr. Miller on his show, and on Dec. 13 Slate shared the interview.

Anderson Cooper was quite difficult on Dr. Miller, as most following the case would be glad to see. Dr. Miller continues to stand behind his affluenza defense. He believes that Judge Jean Boyd made the right decision in giving Ethan Couch 10 years of probation and time in a high-end California rehab facility. Miller's contentions are rather shocking, most would say. He even takes issue with people saying Couch “killed” or “murdered” people, even though four people died after Couch got drunk and slammed his truck into the group of people as he was driving about 70 mph.

The contention of the defense with their affluenza defense is that Ethan Couch grew up too rich and privileged to understand that actions have consequences. Couch has been in trouble before, and he has avoided consequences before. The same judge recently sentenced a non-wealthy 14-year-old to jail when a punch led to a person's death. Many are looking at these cases side-by-side and feel that the judge is sending a frightening message about what wealth can do for people in the court system.

In the Ethan Couch case, the judge apparently was swayed by the affluenza defense argument. Judge Boyd agreed with Dr. Miller and felt Couch wouldn't get the necessary therapy he needed after his seemingly difficult wealthy upbringing by being in a juvenile facility. Many are outraged, believing that the judge has now decided to teach Ethan Couch a lesson about consequences by seemingly letting him off the hook for killing four people with what seem to be minimal consequences.

Ethan Couch's father will foot the $450,000-per-year bill for the Newport Beach facility. Couch's attorney and psychologist claim that the parameters of his probation are very stringent and that this is a better outcome than sentencing him to juvenile detention for a couple of years. The details surrounding this one are simply baffling to many.

While it seems Ethan Couch's affluenza defense kept him out of prison, for now, his family is still facing some big challenges. So far five lawsuits have been filed as a result of the drunk-driving incident. The truck Couch was driving was registered to his father's company, so both Fred Couch and Cleburne Metal Works have been named in the suits. Many will be quite interested to see what the juries decide in these cases, as it would seem unlikely the affluenza defense will go over well with typical jurors.

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