Affluenza: an epidemic!!

affluenza, ethan couch, dick miller, judge jean boyd, drunk driving, teen killer, spoiled brat, S.C. Rhyne, the reporter and the girl

Also known as “spoiled brat.”

You may have heard this week from north Texas, a state that has a long standing history of execution, that teenager Ethan Couch received ten years probation for killing four people.

Couch was driving 70 miles per hour with three times the blood alcohol limit and Valium in his system when he slammed his vehicle into a disabled car and the stranded motorist, Breanna Mitchell, age 24, and the three good Samaritans who were providing assistance; mother and daughter, Hollie Boyles, 52, and Shelby Boyles, 21, and youth pastor, Brian Jennings, 41.

Another teen, who was a passenger in Couch’s vehicle is paralyzed as well as other friends riding in the bed of his pick up truck were also hurt (a total of 9 people involved). Luckily, it seems like Couch walked away from a collision that could easily have killed him, and this week he walked away a “free man”.

Apparently this was not Mr. Couch’s first run in with trouble. “That’s the incredible thing,” Cooper said to Boyles. “He has prior experiences with alcohol and the law. This is not his first offense. So you have a multiple offender who has killed four people who is not going to spend any time in jail — simply because, it seems to me, his family has money.” (An interview with Anderson Cooper with Eric Boyles – victim’s family).

The defendant was facing twenty years in prison, until Psychologist Dick Miller presented a case in which Couch was a victim of his parents’ wealth,  of their constant arguing which led to their divorce,  and his sense of entitlement which led to irresponsibility, poor decisions, and drug use. He was unable to discern from right or wrong.

Affluenza (Affluence + Influenza) is a term that was coined in the 1990’s as a criticism of the social phenomenon of consumerism. Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in excess (shop ’til you drop).

It is not a medical diagnosis recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.

Dr. Miller defended his diagnosis on AC 360 the other night, based on his 24 sessions (equaled to about 40-50 hours total) he had to examine Couch.

Apparently about 80% of us suffer from affluenza and Dr. Miller even went to so far to link it as a cause to obesity:

“…The people who are obese and feed you, and offer you food…that’s– you got more food than you need. Let’s eat it,” said Dr. Miller.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) does not list this as one of the causes for obesity.

The victims’ family were upset by the sentencing, “There are absolutely no consequences for what occurred that day. The primary message has to absolutely be that money and privilege can’t buy justice in this country.” said Eric Bolyes.

Judge Jean Boyd, a highly respected official, was also criticized for her decision to send Couch to a rehab center in California, which his parents will pay the $450,000 a year bill.

This same judge also sentenced a young (14 years old) African American (nonwealthy) teenager to prison for ten years after he punched one person, and the victim fell and hit his head and died.

Dr. Miller argued that this was a better choice for the state, financially and socially as the parents will pay for treatment and Mr. Couch will be able to re-integrate back into society once probation is over and contribute meaningfully as an adult.

The Newport Academy has a robust treatment program of equine therapy (horseback riding), yoga, martial arts training, nature hikes, and teens can get the “unconditional love they need to heal.”

There is currently an online petition to Governor Rick Perry to remove Boyd from the bench, however it is announced that she plans on retiring at the end of her term next year.

Click here for the petition. Only 172 signatures are needed, if you “like” this post, you should sign it too.

There were no statements from Couch’s family or Judge Boyd’s office.

The defendant’s father, Fred Couch, is the owner of a Fort Worth sheet metal manufacturing. The family and his company is being sued because the truck Ethan was driving belonged to the company.

I must say, although I dismiss affluenza as a mental health phenomenon, it does come with a grain of truth. And one does wonder whether this verdict only “spreads the disease.”

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78 thoughts on “Affluenza: an epidemic!!

  1. I write humor for a living. After reading this, it’s next to impossible to find my funny. It makes me sick — and it’s a symptom of a bigger problem we are facing as a society that fosters a sense of entitlement and lack of responsibility. It’s a devastating combination and a recipe for disaster. Excellent piece on an infuriating situation.

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  2. Wow. The world is a sad and scary place at times like this. I hope he can be cured from having too good a life and a few upsetting disadvantages. His parents argued and divorced. Really. That’s it?

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    1. Well, he was brought up to never say “sorry” for hurting someone and just to give money. He’s emotionally flat you know…not unlike other children who are abused or neglected…this is a travesty. But I do have to say, if his parents did raise him like that, could you really expect a different outcome?

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      1. Can parents be responsible for a child’s lack of emotion? That’s a scary idea itself. Saying sorry isn’t enough in this circumstance. There’s no saying sorry for what happened. Maybe remorse is better than no remorse, but you can’t make it up to people for killing them or paralyzing them. You can’t make it up to the families, not really. I don’t know him, but he’s just a kid. I imagine he’s numb with horror or should be.

        You don’t give any one drunk the keys to a vehicle and especially not a drunk kid. I have lost people in car accidents with drunk drivers, and the loss lasts the rest of your life.

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      2. Yeh, I’m not sure why he had access to alcohol and car keys (especially the keys to his father’s company). But yeah, there’s something going on in his head that is not right.

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      1. Murder implies intent. Reckless manslaughter is still killing. The doctor is not a lawyer and should not be giving opinions that sound like legal opinions.

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  3. This is disgusting. Makes me sick. A person who has taken the lives of 4 others has to take the punishment for it. “Affluenza” – what a joke!!! … Makes me sick that a boy, younger than this brat, who ‘accidentally’ killed another boy got 10 years and this one gets to walk. When will the world learn that we’re all the same? Black, white, yellow, purple, blond haired, brown haired, blue eyed, brown eyed, rich, poor – who cares? In the end we’re all the same, just flesh and blood.. Some with a heart and brain, some with either and some with neither … Makes me so angry.

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    1. Hi La Femme Timide,

      I can hear your disgust and outrage, its definitely a sad sad world we live in if the justice system can’t work itself out. Anyone suspicious that the judge is retiring so soon after this? They showed her picture and she looks fairly young.

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      1. Very sad indeed. And yes you’re right it’s extremely suspicious – to me it only confirms the matter of fact that something fishy went down… It just seems retarded that a person gets to walk from taking the lives of others, no matter what the cause was. Black people get sentenced for stealing and rich white people get to ignore the law because money can apparently buy you everything and anything.

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      1. It just seems like we are supposed to feel sorry for those suffering from too much of everything. We certainly do seem to muster more sympathy for the rich.

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      2. I’m sorry. I don’t sympathize with the fact he had too much…but rather he didn’t have enough “parenting”. Although he is old enough to know right from wrong, his parents dropped the ball somewhere early on. Maybe too busy buying stuff to raise him.

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  4. It’s interesting, because if someone who wasn’t wealthy ran over four people and claimed in court that he “can’t tell right from wrong”, they would send him/her to a mental health facility and wouldn’t let them out until they were cured of their sociopathic tendencies. That’s probably what should have happened in this case.

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  5. Can’t differentiate right from wrong? Last time I checked that was a symptom of sociopathy, not being rich. I wonder how that psychologist sleeps at night, hopefully not well. Affluenza, there’s a disease I wish I had.

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      1. yes, and apparently selling “food” that makes you kill public servants, or induces an obesity epidemic is without reprisal or social responsibility… ahhh, America:-) gotta love the hypocrisy inherent to capitalism… I just want my 40 acres and a mule…

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  6. Unbelievable. Even more unbelievable is the fact that I’m reading this after spending my morning shoveling snow from my driveway with my 3-year-old. I watched as a teenager from the next block pulled up to a nearby 4-way stop, floored it, then fishtailed in the snow, dragging his back end through lawns on both sides of the street. He’d regained control of his car by the time he passed my house, but all I could do was stare at my baby girl in disbelief. And now all I can do is wonder what his excuse…er, defense…would have been if the worst would have happened.

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  7. rant.

    Since, apparently, “Justice” isn’t quite blind, actually she can see quite clearly though the blindfold if it has been soaked in cash, and apparently “Justice” really REALLY likes rich White boys, otherwise there would be equal sentencing for equal offenses regardless of some perceived future ability to “be a contributor to society.” Maybe once the “kid” kills more people and contributes to the death toll of society, maybe they’ll stop calling him a “kid.”
    Funny how rich white men who’ve done bad things before they are 18 are only “kids” and everyone else who does bad things before they are 18 are “criminals”, “hoodlums”, and “thugs.” Don’t believe me? Watch the news. The media makes the distinction all the time.

    I hope that when the case goes to civil court, the 9 families with dead and/or paralyzed relatives get to make this Rich kids family one of the Nouveau-Poor.

    /rant.

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    1. Hey GoJohnEgo,

      Feel free to rant, as I’m afraid this is one of the few spaces where your voice may be heard. Something tells me the family won’t be sent to the poorhouse anytime soon. But I guess society will ostracize them, now that their names are known.

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  8. You did a really good job of here of just presenting the facts rather than allowing a full on rant to emerge, something I really couldn’t do. This whole case makes me feel sick. It’s hard to imagine that ‘rehab’ centre is actually going to change him. All the sentence will do is make him believe even more that he can get away with anything. Disgusting.

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    1. Hi WonderingGrace,

      Thanks the compliments, I am very shocked and outraged by this decision, and it makes me wonder where we are going as a society to let something like this happen?

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  9. I am not surprised by the verdict. Children today think they are entitled to everything, whether rich or poor. The rich think they can get away with it more. Drinking and drugs are on the rise in this country and it has to start somewhere, which is at home. Parents need to start caring and children need to start listening that they do not have the right to harm others when they do not make the right decisions.

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  10. That is just so wrong… as someone who has spent years in the classroom (and at a small school with fairly tight-knight families) many people would be surprised just how much many parents totally tune out anything and everything that is going on in their kids’ lives. It’s really sad. One of the hardest parts about the job for sure.

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  11. I might not still live in Texas, but I was born and bred there…this disgusts me so much. You’re right to point out Texas’ high execution rate. There is no reason, NO reason at all (that I could find while reading about the trial) for that boy to get the judgement he did. A minor DUI and accident should get him at least SOME time. And there are SO many people out there who get more for less (don’t even get me started on pot possession by minors). People DIED because of what that kid did… I just … makes me sick.

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    1. Hey Darcil,

      You’re not alone in that sentiment. In all places for an argument like to be made, it flew in Texas. But again, where is the justice, for the families? Maybe in the civil suit?

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      1. There’s already something against the kid’s father’s company, I believe. The vehicle he was driving was a company one. I would imagine that they’ll get some sort of settlement. Not the same though, that’s for sure.

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      2. Yep, I did mention that last week, that is a civil suit against the father’s company because the truck was a company vehicle. Not sure how the kid got access to the company vehicle…

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  12. Horrible story. The laws in Texas are really disfunctional. Luckily the legal system doesn’t work that way in most parts of the West.

    But consumerism is causing the problems you describe all over the West. Kids that have everything you can possibly have from a materialistic point of view but no love and care from their parents. And not surprisingly those kids are dysfuncional. The sooner values change and parents stop spoiling their kids that way the better.

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    1. Actually, the laws in Texas are very very conservative. Which is why this case is all the more shocking. Apparently since he is only 16 (and not an adult) that’s why the criminal case proceedings went “differently” (if he was an adult he probably would have looked at death penalty). But that still doesn’t explain why a Black 14 year was sentence to 10 years in prison for punching a person.

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  13. What if….. every time a young person claims something lke affluenza in a court case not only must the child’s parents pay for his/her treatment but also be foced to pay for similar treatment for a child from a nonaffluent background (loike, say, a certain beforementioned 14 year old). Anf by similar I mean at the same treatment centre, with the same perks, but therapy that reflects the second child’s crime appropriately? Now THAT might make a difference.
    After all, both children deserve the right to be ‘re-integrated into society’ and ‘contribute meaningfully as an adult’ – unless of course it was determined that the child from the poor background would not benefit from such treatment, in which case perhaps both children should have treatment meeted out like what is considered appropriate for the second child.

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      1. Precisely. So if the way to get people suffering from affluenza to become productive members of society is by sending them to a posh rehab school on daddy’s money with the stipend that they fund the same treatment for an ‘underpriviledged minority group member’, then the way to get ghettopathy sufferers to become productive members of society is to send them to the same posh centres, funded by the families of the sufferers of affluenza. One of two things will happen. Either some of the class barriers will break down and both groups will actually benefit from it (that’d be nice) and actually become better as people, or the affluent sufferers will whine to mommy and daddy, and in the end the court will be able to charge more properly because if the ghettoapathy sufferers have to go back to the regular jail system so do the affluenza sufferers.

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      2. Somewhat. Difference being that if you ‘suffer from affluenza’ you have to share the affluence to someone who could have been your victim, and if you ‘suffer from ghettoapathy’ you get a chance to find something outside of the world you live in. Seems small, but it DOES make the treatment a bit different.

        Then, if people with affluence complain that they are spending money they should not need to on people from a different financial background, the terms get dropped and the perpetrators are treated equally under the law for what they have done in the here and now, with former illegal actions taken into consideration, as equals under the eyes of the law and forget this preferential treatment crap.

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