Sunny Hostin

Rich Drunk Driver Kills 4, Spared Jail

CNN | December 12, 2013
Article by Dana Ford for CNN.

To families of the victims, Ethan Couch was a killer on the road, a drunken teenage driver who caused a crash that left four people dead.

To the defense, the youth is himself a victim - of "affuenza," according to one psychologist - the product of wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits for the boy.

To a judge, who sentenced Couch to 10 years' probation but no jail time, he's a defendant in need of treatment.

"Now, the families of couch's victims have filed civil lawsuits against the teen and his family," CNN's Alina Machado reports. "One of those victims is a teen who was riding with couch and who is now paralyzed because of the crash."

The decision disappointed prosecutors and stunned victims' family members, who say they feel that Couch got off too easy. Prosecutors had asked for the maximum of 20 years behind bars.

"Let's face it ... There needs to be some justice here," Eric Boyles, who lost his wife and daughter, told CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 on Wednesday night.

"For 25 weeks, I've been going through a healing process. And so when the verdict came out, I mean, my immediate reaction is - I'm back to Week 1. We have accomplished nothing here. My healing process is out the window," he said.

Lawyers for Couch, 16, had argued that the teen's parents should share a part of the blame for the crash because they never set limits for the boy and gave him everything he wanted.

According to CNN affiliate WFAA, a psychologist called by the defense described Couch as a product of "affluenza."

He reportedly testified that the teen's family felt wealth bought privilege, and that Couch's life could be turned around with one to two years of treatment and no contact with his parents.

This really flies in the face of our criminal justice system,” says Sunny Hostin, CNN Legal Analyst and former federal prosecutor.

“I think a lot of people feel the system is about rehabilitation... but it's also about punishment and sending a message to not only this defendant, but other people that this type of behavior won't be tolerated. You can't kill four people and paralyze another one and then get sent to a rehab facility... rather than being sent to prison where you learn real adult lessons.

Couch was sentenced by a juvenile court judge on Tuesday. If he violates the terms of his probation, he could face up to 10 years of incarceration, according to a statement from the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney's Office.

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