Friday, December 13, 2013

The “Affluenza” Killer: Nevermind the kid. Punish the government of Texas.

Judge Jean Boyd: unable to do the
right thing universally, she did the
wrong thing selectively.

I kind of agree with Texas Judge Jean Boyd, who recently presided in the case of a 16-year-old juvenile who drove drunk and crashed his truck, killing four people and gravely injuring two others, one of whom is now paralyzed.

She gave the drunken teen ten years’ probation.  Plus, if he does it again, she’ll really get mad at him. Plus he’s going away – for as much as a couple of years – to a posh country club-like rehab center in Newport Beach, California at his parents' expense.

In addition to the rehab’s outdoor swimming pool, he can enjoy gorgeous views, meals prepared by a chef, yoga lessons, something called “equine therapy” (does he have to bring his own horse?) and “unconditional love.”

A reasonable argument
with a great big “But”

The judge evidently bought the argument, as in fact do I, that the 16 years-old brat was a victim of “affluenza.” That admittedly hokey-sounding, made-up word essentially boils down the fact that the boy’s  parents have too much money, spoiled him rotten, gave him a truck but ignored his welfare, ethics, self-discipline, and sense of empathy, and somehow gave him to know that he had so much money, the rules of society that govern the rest of us don’t apply to him.

If there was ever an even better argument for an excess wealth tax and a 100 percent inheritance tax on legacies of over a few million bucks, I’d like to see it. But I’m straying off topic.

A psychologist hired by the parents evidently coined the “affluenza” diagnosis, and persuaded the judge that it wasn’t the kid’s fault. The boy is “the product of wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits for the boy.”

As I said, I'm on board with the diagnosis, despite the pun-ny name. Scratch most juvenile delinquents, and whether they’re just kids who made an impetuous mistake, or they’re chemically addicted, or they’re downright psychopaths, at that age the odds are they’re victims of the circumstances that shaped them. And a good many of them, if not the substantial majority, might well become productive adults with the right kind of therapy and reeducation.

The problem is, the judge has only been able to take a sensibly corrective course of action – intensive rehab – for a wealthy offender. Right wing Texas has no provision I'm aware of to offer intensive rehab and psychological treatment to any juvenile using their cheeseparing conservative taxpayers money. And that means, with the judge acquiescing however unhappily, that there's one standard of justice for the rich and another for the rest of us.

While the rich go to California
the poor go to the slammer

The poor Texans go to prison for long terms, and screw them. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Judge Boyd sentenced one juvenile this past July to ten years for killing someone as the consequence of a single punch. It's not that she thinks a fist is a far more lethal weapon than a truck driven by a juiced up teenager with a blood alcohol level that was three times the legal limit. But her hands were tied.

According to a story from Station WFAA's website, Anita Lauterbach, the mother of the dead punching victim...
...said she remembers the judge pushing for rehabilitation, much like the Couch case.
"She wanted to send him to one of these special places in Arizona, but no one would take him," Lauterbach said. 
 Of course they wouldn't take him. No money. No rehab.

And in the same county, a 19 year old who pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter pulled down an eight year sentence. But in both the other intoxication case and in the punch case, no paid psychologist stepped forward and said the boy was too affluent, and no parents offered to pay the $450,000 or so to send their child to Camp Coddle Me Sober.

The truth of the matter, based on the sworn testimony from their own hired psychologist, is that the parents of the drunk 16-year-old driver are just as guilty, if not more guilty, of the death of four people and grave injury of two others as their son. But there doesn’t seem to be a criminal consequence for them. 

So I do hope the families of the dead and physically injured victims of this chain of  parental neglect sue the living bank account out of the juvenile’s parents. It was their outrageous excuse for parenting, sworn to by their own expert witness, that put the truck keys in their kid’s hands, put the booze in his belly, and put the arrogance and total lack of accountability into his impressionable young mind. They deserve to emerge from civil court with nothing more than an application form for food stamps.

And what about the
double-standard judge?

As for the probably well-meaning judge, who demonstrated that justice is blind, but also has 20-20 vision when it comes to money – and who additionally demonstrated that there’s one definition of justice in Texas for the rich and another for the poor – she needs to retire for going along with the system. When justice has a double standard, justice really has no standard at all. She should be replaced by somebody who either sends nearly everybody to rehab (fat chance!) or nobody to rehab.

But that’s not gonna happen. In fact, Judge Boyd has been awarded a “Silver Gavel” by the local Tarrant County Bar Association because she has s exemplified “ability, integrity, and courage.” Well, I guess at least some of the time.

Maybe Governor Perry and the Texas Legislature, who support stern prison sentences and the busiest death chamber in he western world, but then provides a way for the rich to buy their way out, need to retire as well. And maybe Texas ought to spend more money on educating, caring for, and if necessary rehabilitating its kids, and less trying to punish them after the damage is done.

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