Outrage continues to ensue across the nation as wealthy 16 year old Ethan Couch was punished with zero prison time after drunkenly killing four people.
Couch’s offense was punishable by up to twenty years in prison, but he was sentenced to only 10 years of probation. How did he get off the hook? “Affluenza.” Couch’s legal team argued that since the teenager had been spoiled his whole life, he failed to learn that actions have consequences. Accordingly, they argued, he didn’t deserve to be punished harshly for his crime.
Psychologist Dr. Dick Miller invoked “affluenza” while testifying on the teenager’s behalf in court. Yesterday, he went on Anderson Copper 360 and defended his rationale.
“He [Couch] pled guilty. He said ‘I did it’” Miller said. “[He said] ‘I was there, I was in the truck, I was driving and we ran over four people.’ My responsibility is to say what is best for this child. What’s best for this 16 year old boy? And that’s what I told the judge. I used my 30 years of experience to say among the choices, with the kinds of resources that we had, what’s the best treatment for this kid? I don’t believe going to the penitentiary was best for him.”
Cooper objected to Miller’s reasoning that a family’s financial resources should change the punishment administered for a crime. He pointed out that just last year, the same judge presiding over Couch’s case sentenced a 14 year old African American boy to ten years in prison for killing just one person.
Cooper then again questioned the validity of using a concept as abstract as “affluenza” in court.
"If you kill four people, you can't use that as an excuse, can you?" he said.
Rather than directly answer Cooper’s question, Miller objected to Cooper’s use of the term “kill” for what Couch did. He thinks it’s more appropriate to say “people died” instead.
Elsewhere on CNN, writer Ashley Hayes interviewed Atlanta-based psychologist Mary Gresham about Couch’s sentencing. Gresham actually agrees that counseling and therapy will do more good than prison for Couch. But, she also points out the blatant double standard being applied in this case. If upbringing is an excuse for crime, then surely those raised in violence and poverty should be allowed to justify their crimes using the same principles. And as we all know, this is not the case.
"If you have a child who grew up in the inner city, and the parents abused crack, and (the child) was abused all along and grew up at the age of 16 and ran over four people, how likely is it the public or culture would say, 'You must understand, what the child did was a result of his upbringing'?” Gresham questioned.
"It is hard to justify such vastly different approaches taken toward inner-city children versus those in affluence."