I stopped believing in the concept of letting anything shock me quite some time ago, but when I saw “affluenza” at the bottom of the Bing search page a couple of days ago, I was fearful that there was a new mutation of the flu running rampant. Accordingly, curiosity got the best of me and I clicked on the box and found myself flummoxed that affluenza wasn’t a variant of the flu virus, but it was yet another example of how money and privledge can trump common sense in our legal system.
In North Texas on June 15th 2013, 16 year old Ethan Couch and some friends stole beer from a local Walmart and subsequently killed 4 people while driving drunk with a blood alcohol three times the legal limit. The defense that his lawyers used was that he suffered from affluenza, which according to the description of one psychologist as being a product of wealthy privleged parents who never set limits for the boy. This would be laughable if the circumstances surrounding the case weren’t so sad, with the lives of several families changed forever, it would seem logical that a price be paid by Couch for what transpired. Sadly, this was not to be as Couch only received 10 years of probation instead of jail time for the lives that he took.
This case seems to dictate that people cannot be held responsible for their actions, especially if wealth is in the equation. This is in direct contrast to a poor teen, from either a rural or a inner-city enviroment who may engage in behaviors that are equally heinous, where lives are needlessly lost. What is their defense? Are they guilty or do they need to be given a pat on the back and told that its not their fault?
Perhaps if they are from a broken home where there are no limits set for them because they lack one or both parents. Shouldn't logic be turned on its head so that we can extend poor disadvantaged kids the benefit of the doubt? Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially when we consider that poverty isn’t regarded as a mental illness or is it?