A little less than two years ago, now-18 year-old Ethan Couch was sentenced for an automobile collision he caused two years before, in which he killed four people. Four homicides might lead one to think at least a little jail time was in the offing, but what with "restorative justice" and a nifty psychologist's report, jail time was not to be. Instead, as the Washington Post reports
Couch was sentenced to a drug-and-alcohol-free probation...; a psychologist and the teen's lawyers argued in his defense that the then-16-year-old's reckless behavior was a result of "affluenza."
I would love to have been a fly on the wall when the hired "psychologist" and the defense lawyer came up with that one. I could be drunk and stoned and contemplating for ten years and still not have ginned up "affluenza" (a "syndrome" created by wealthy parents who fail to enforce discipline). But I have never been a match for the creativity of the defense bar and its experts.
Anyway, this week brings us the news that, in the course of the sobered-up life his alleged "probation" was supposed to bring him, Mr. Couch took off for the super-plush resort of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. This was after a home video surfaced of his playing a rugged game of beer pong. He and his mother, who was evidently financing this study in responsible living while staying with him, have now been taken into custody.
Lots of lessons here, but I'll settle for just two: First, letting a defense shrink tell the tale at sentencing isn't that good an idea; and second, a much better idea would be sharply cabining the discretion of judges so that, no matter how foolish or naive or (in some cases) bought-off they are, serious crimes will get serious sentences. There is no reason we should live with this sort of song-and-dance travesty of justice.