You may recall the so-called “Affluenza” case of 2013, which I wrote about here.
Ethan Couch a Texas teenager from a rich family, killed four people in a drunken-driving crash (he also had no license) and crippled a friend riding with him. Instead of jail time, the 16-year-old was given probation mandating expensive counseling and treatment by a judge who found herself vilified far and wide. Now this, from his lawyers, Reagan Wynn and Scott Brown:
“We have recently learned that, for the last several days, the juvenile probation officer has been unable to make contact with Ethan or his mother with whom he has been residing.”
A video surfaced showing Couch playing beer pong, which is a violation of probation that could send him to prison. The assumption is that he had fled to avoid that result, and may have even left the country. The Washington Post reports that The FBI and U.S. Marshals Service have joined the search for Couch, who is now considered a fugitive.
So, I am asked, how do the Ethics Alarms observations on the original sentence stand now, since it is clear that the judge’s attempt to reform Ethan without locking him up has failed?
The answer is, having read what I wrote initially again, that I wouldn’t retract a word.
Here’s what I wrote, and my comments now: Continue reading →
“I understand, son. We’ve all been at that awkward, “just want to beat the old white guy to death” age….”
Detroit Third Judicial Circuit Judge James Callahan sentenced 19-year-old gang member Latrez Cummings to six months in jail for his participation in the mob beating of Steve Utash, a 54-year-old white man who jumped out of his car to assist a 10-year-old African-American boy after his pick-up truck hit the child. Cummings and at least 20 others on the scene attacked Utash and beat him severely, leaving him with permanent brain damage.
Judge Callahan told Cummings that the lack of a father was what led him to his current plight. “That’s all you have needed in your life, a father, someone to discipline you, someone to beat the hell out of you when you made a mistake,” Callahan lectured Cummings. “Without the guidance of a father, being 19 years of age, I can understand how some of these problems existed in the past.” The judge added that Cummings has suffered without “somebody to beat the hell out of you when you made a mistake.” With the further rationalization, “We’ve all been 19 years of age, ” Callahan handed down the six month sentence, to be followed by probation.
The prosecutor, to her credit, went nuts. Said Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey: Continue reading →
Top: Morris. Bottom: Me.
Today we travel cross the pond for a head explosion-prompting episode. A charming young woman and mother named Loren Morris, now 21, began having sexual intercourse with an 8-year-old boy five years ago, and continued for two years until he was ten years old, involving about 50 forced sexual acts.
The boy, now 14, was overheard bragging about his premature sex life at school, and that led to his molester’s arrest and trial. This week a judge today gave Morris a two-year prison sentence at Worcester Crown Court. She will be eligible for release on parole after only a year.
This case is relevant to a couple of recent Ethics Alarms controversies. Presumably Morris is being sentenced leniently on the basis of her horrific crime being committed while she was a juvenile, even though she is an adult now. As I asserted in the stateside case of the juvenile assault ripening into a murder, I think a juvenile whose crime is only discovered and proven after he or she enters adulthood should be tried and punished as an adult. Continue reading →
Several readers sent me this case, which is as odd as it is horrible. In 1998, Don Willburn Collins allegedly attacked, possibly raped, and set on fire an 8 year-old boy named Robby Middleton when Collins was 13, and Middleton was only 8. Collins spent several months in juvenile detention but was released when prosecutors decided they did not have enough evidence to convict him. Middleton survived, permanently scarred and maimed, his health ruined. In 2011 he died of skin cancer, which doctors attributed to his burns. Shortly before he perished, he gave a video deposition accusing Collins of the crime.
Now a judge has ruled that Collins can be prosecuted for Middleton’s murder, since he died as a direct consequence of the attack 13 years earlier. Moreover, the judge said, he can be charged as an adult, though he was a juvenile when the attack took place.
The case raises many legal issues, and I am neither prepared nor interested in exploring those. I suspect that the task facing prosecutors is insuperable, given the time that has passed, issues of proof and law, and the gut feeling many jurors will harbor that such a conviction would be unfair.
I will render this ethics verdict, however: If Collins was the attacker, I believe it would be fair, just and ethical for him to be punished for it now as an adult, for that is what he is. Continue reading →
Listen to your mother, Joe.
The infamous vehicular homicide case that generated the “Affluenza Defense” is well on its way to becoming an ethics train wreck.
The news media keeps doing its part: today CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield, whom I can no longer recall why I ever thought she was more than an over-opinionated hack (I think it was her glasses) said again today that Judge Jean Boyd “bought” 16-year-old scofflaw Ethan Crouch’s defense that he wasn’t responsible for his actions (that ended up leading to the death of four and critical injuries to two of his friends) because he had been spoiled by an affluent upbringing. As I already pointed out, there is no evidence that Judge Boyd agreed with that dubious argument, and solid evidence that she did not. Never mind. Ashleigh and the rest of her incompetent colleagues will continue to try to mislead the public regarding this just as they regularly do on nearly every other news story.
The more surprising development was the sudden participation of the Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon, he whose efforts to jail young Couch were foiled by Boyd’s expansive judicial compassion toward a minor, in the ethics follies. He’s attempting another “bite of the apple, ” as judges say, by asking Boyd to lock up Ethan on two counts of intoxication assault that he argues are still pending before her court. Shannon explained:
“During his recent trial, the 16-year-old admitted his guilt in four cases of intoxication manslaughter and two cases of intoxication assault. There has been no verdict formally entered in the two intoxication assault cases. Every case deserves a verdict.”
Shannon’s renewed plea focuses on the two teens riding in the back of Couch’s Ford F-350 pickup (voluntarily riding there, knowing the driver was unlicensed and drunk as a skunk) who suffered life-altering injuries. One of them, Sergio Molina, is paralyzed and can communicate only by blinking. It is 1) disingenuous 2) unprofessional 3) unfair 4) futile, and he knows it, 5) irresponsible, and 6) probably unconstitutional.
All of which means his gambit is 7) unethical. Continue reading →
Arthur King of WGAN newsradio engaged me in a segment of his show “Inside Maine” this afternoon.
You can, if you are so inclined, hear it here.
Much thanks to Arthur for the chance to chat with him about these issues.
Judge Boyd, being judged. (The earlier photo posted was NOT Judge Boyd. I apologize to the judge, readers, and whoever’s photo that was, for the error)
The newsmedia and blogosphere are going bonkers over the sentence given to Ethan Couch, the 16-year-old Texan who pleaded guilty last week to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury. He had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit (Couch had stolen beer from a Walmart), plus traces of Valium in his system, when he lost control of the Ford F-350 pick-up he was driving (over the speed limit) and slammed into four people trying to fix a disabled car on the shoulder. They were killed; two of his seven passengers were critically injured. Prosecutors proposed 20 years in jail as the proper punishment for Couch, but his attorneys tried a novel defense: they had experts testify that their client suffered from “affluenza,” a malady caused by his rich, amoral, neglectful parents, who taught him (the theory goes) that there are no consequences for anything, if one has enough money.
Rejecting the prosecution’s argument, State District Judge Jean Boyd, presiding over the Fort Worth Juvenile Court, shocked everyone by sentencing Couch to only 10 years of probation—no prison time at all. The gist of the media outrage: once again, the life philosophy of Couch’s sociopathic parents is validated. The rich get away with everything: a poor, minority defendant who engaged in the same conduct would have been imprisoned. This is the injustice of the criminal law system in America.
Maybe. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
I think the judge, despite what we are hearing from the media, may have done her job well.
Continue reading →
Savanah Dietrich, teen rape victim facing charges for refusing to protect the privacy of her rapists,
One of the Ethics Alarms principles that many find infuriating is my position that violating the law is inherently unethical. Like all rules, this one doesn’t make sense in all cases, and one of them has surfaced in Louisville, Kentucky.
Savanah Dietrich, a 17-year-old rape victim, was infuriated when her teenaged rapists managed to negotiate a lenient plea bargain for sexually assaulting her and circulating pictures of the incident to friends. She took to Twitter, named them and described what they did to her, despite being under a confidentiality order from the judge in the case. Her attackers were juveniles, and the court records were sealed. Now Dietrich is facing a jail sentence longer than her rapists, because their attorneys have asked a Jefferson District Court judge to hold her in contempt. Continue reading →
I don’t think this is the same “Theodoric of York” who authored this excellent “Comment of the Day”…at least I hope it isn’t.
The heat/ light ratio in the comments to the post about the controversial sentencing of a 16-year-old scofflaw in Texas has been depressing, but among the rational, measured, well-considered and thought-provoking responses by those who actually read the post, this one, by new commenter Theodoric of York, is a winner. His politeness is especially appreciated among all the posts calling me names that would shock my mother. I hope he comes again, and often.
I’ll have some further comments after he’s had his say. Meanwhile, here is Theodoric of York’s Comment or the Day on the post Ethics Observations on the “Affluenza” Sentence.