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Author Topic: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?  (Read 1273 times)

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Offline MathimTopic starter

Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« on: February 06, 2014, 04:22:09 PM »
http://news.msn.com/crime-justice/judge-orders-no-jail-for-teen-in-fatal-car-wreck

I hadn't really been following this story but I saw it my homepage earlier this morning and just couldn't ignore it. Apparently this teenager was driving while intoxicated and killed several people and crippling others. He wasn't convicted because apparently his having wealthy parents caused him to grow up spoiled and without a sense of personal responsibility. Now, I'm sure I don't have all the facts and I'm holding back my initial opinions but I'd like to hear what you all have to say about the whole mess.

Offline meikle

Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2014, 04:40:51 PM »
The US is becoming less and less worried about hiding the fact that we have a very privileged noble class.

Offline MathimTopic starter

Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2014, 04:42:12 PM »
Among other things. I mean, I couldn't help harkening back to Paris Hilton with this and that quote from her mother when she actually did get sentenced to serve time, "And after all the money we spent!"

Offline Torch

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Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2014, 04:47:14 PM »
The US is becoming less and less worried about hiding the fact that we have a very privileged noble class.

I'm quite sure we've never hidden anything at all. In fact, we publicize it.

After all, the New York Social Register was first published in the 1880's.  ::)

Offline MathimTopic starter

Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2014, 05:03:00 PM »
Haven't heard of that, sounds interesting.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2014, 05:05:42 PM »
This notion of him growing up spoiled and without a sense of responsibility was the defense that his attorneys were using.  It is the concept that his decision-making skills at the age of 16 were diminished to that of a 12-year-old, due to his parents coddling their child.  Regardless of our views on this defense, they were trying to make a case to the judge that despite his crime, it would not be productive for his rehabilitation to put him in prison. 

This media firestorm over this case, however, is due to one term being pulled out of context.  The defense psychologist during the case used the word 'affluenza' to describe his diminished reasoning skills.  People are incorrectly assuming that the defense attorneys (or the judge for that matter), are somehow suggesting that he is not to blame.  In contrast, they were attempting to seek a reduced criminal charge due to his diminished ability to tell right from wrong, and as such, they asserted that sending him to prison would not serve as the most effective rehabilitation tool, considering that the four people who died are gone, regardless of how he is sentenced.

In many ways, this is no different than someone who murders their spouse, claiming during the court proceedings that their spouse was physically abusive (even if they did no such thing).  It is purely a legal tactic to reduce the sentence, and it is the job of the attorney to convince the judge (or jury if it is present) of this, even if it is factually untrue.

The judge in the case has already stated that this 'affluenza' had nothing to do with her ruling, and that her ruling was based on the best rehabilitation environment for this teenager.

As far as I'm concerned, the only thing to take away from this is that having wealth enables you to afford a damn good lawyer.

Offline Torch

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Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2014, 05:07:35 PM »

the only thing to take away from this is that having wealth enables you to afford a damn good lawyer.

+1.

OJ Simpson, anyone?

Offline MathimTopic starter

Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2014, 05:13:57 PM »
So what I would then be tempted to ask is: Should young people coming from ghettoes and bad neighborhoods get the same treatment, then, since they obviously have justifiable impairment in their judgment of right and wrong when they commit juvenile crimes? Let's see someone try to play that same defense in the case of someone I described and raise a ruckus if it's thrown out by the judge since they're not also rich.

Also, at what point does that defense cease to work? When the juvenile offender turns 18? It's such a capricious idea.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2014, 05:21:40 PM by Mathim »

Offline Torch

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Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2014, 05:17:23 PM »
Should young people coming from ghettoes and bad neighborhoods get the same treatment, then, since they obviously have justifiable impairment when they commit juvenile crimes?

I have no doubt that defense strategy has been tried in every inner city courtroom in this country.

Whether or not it is successful is anyone's guess.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2014, 05:24:08 PM »
So what I would then be tempted to ask is: Should young people coming from ghettoes and bad neighborhoods get the same treatment, then, since they obviously have justifiable impairment in their judgment of right and wrong when they commit juvenile crimes? Let's see someone try to play that same defense in the case of someone I described and raise a ruckus if it's thrown out by the judge since they're not also rich.

I don't think anyone is making a demarcation between "affluenza" defense or "ghetto" defense as being right or wrong.

It's a matter of whether it gathers the sympathy of the judge or not.  The best attorneys realize that the legal process isn't about fairness, it's about appealing to emotion.

Offline MathimTopic starter

Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2014, 05:33:36 PM »
Well you'd have to be willing to sell your soul to sympathize more with the former rather than the latter. This makes the job of an attorney sound more like being a televangelist.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2014, 05:40:30 PM »
Judges are only human.  There's a reason why if you come to the courtroom poorly dressed and are not polite in your dealings with the judge, that they may tend to give a harsher sentence.

Even the person from the ghetto who gets into trouble can appeal to the emotions of the judge if they have an attorney who can portray them through the right lens (which they can't afford, of course).  But that's another ethical question in and of itself.

Offline Vekseid

Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2014, 06:15:12 PM »
http://news.msn.com/crime-justice/judge-orders-no-jail-for-teen-in-fatal-car-wreck

I hadn't really been following this story but I saw it my homepage earlier this morning and just couldn't ignore it. Apparently this teenager was driving while intoxicated and killed several people and crippling others. He wasn't convicted because apparently his having wealthy parents caused him to grow up spoiled and without a sense of personal responsibility. Now, I'm sure I don't have all the facts and I'm holding back my initial opinions but I'd like to hear what you all have to say about the whole mess.

That was his defense, but it's actually somewhat clever of the judge.

1) It pins the blame on the parents, which gives additional credence to the civil lawsuits that are to follow. It lets them go after the family's assets, no the kid's or the LLC that held the truck he was driving.
2) It prevents him from going to juvenile detention, which would likely just let him go in two years with no oversight. This gives them ten years of oversight in which he has to fuck up.


Offline Lux12

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Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2014, 04:20:52 AM »
http://news.msn.com/crime-justice/judge-orders-no-jail-for-teen-in-fatal-car-wreck

I hadn't really been following this story but I saw it my homepage earlier this morning and just couldn't ignore it. Apparently this teenager was driving while intoxicated and killed several people and crippling others. He wasn't convicted because apparently his having wealthy parents caused him to grow up spoiled and without a sense of personal responsibility. Now, I'm sure I don't have all the facts and I'm holding back my initial opinions but I'd like to hear what you all have to say about the whole mess.
This affluenza stuff is bull. It's just a lame excuse that by some twisted machinations of what I am tempted to call evil of a supernatural variety got turned into some from legal defense. It's a mere excuse for the upper class to get away with their abuses. Being rich does not make you so special that you can so blatantly disregard the safety and well being of others.  There are spoiled kids who come from less wealthy segments of society and they still don't do this sort of thing.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2014, 07:07:28 AM »
My problem with this isn't an issue of what the kid "deserves", or even of his rehabilitation at all. It's about precedent, and about minimizing the damage he does to society. Enshrining "My money shielded me from the consequences of my actions, so I shouldn't go to jail" as a legal defense is indistinguishable from allowing "I'm too rich to go to jail" as an explicit defense - which should be regarded as a huge problem in any society that values social mobility and egalitarianism at all.

Further... the defense clearly establishes that we've already tried shielding this kid form the consequences of his actions, and it directly resulted in four corpses. Is further shielding really a good idea here?

Offline Formless

Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #15 on: February 07, 2014, 08:26:01 AM »
Its just one ' method ' the lawyer used. It could work again. But down the road , when it happens too often by many ' rich kids ' , it will be disregarded as the public community will not agree to it.

And then lawyers will need to find another ' method ' when such an incident occurs.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #16 on: February 07, 2014, 09:20:09 AM »
This affluenza stuff is bull. It's just a lame excuse that by some twisted machinations of what I am tempted to call evil of a supernatural variety got turned into some from legal defense. It's a mere excuse for the upper class to get away with their abuses. Being rich does not make you so special that you can so blatantly disregard the safety and well being of others.  There are spoiled kids who come from less wealthy segments of society and they still don't do this sort of thing.

You're making some huge leaps with your analysis of this.  It seems that what irks you is that a kid who was spoiled, is not facing the full wrath of the law.  But on an empirical level, he never asked to be coddled and protected.  Commend his attorneys in this case for effectively making the case that his decision-making skills were of a child much younger than of his years.  They even had a licensed psychologist testify on this account.

On the other hand, try giving an inner-city kid convicted of murder a high-power attorney.  Would you be making the same remarks if he got away with murder, because his attorney somehow managed to effectively articulate how his environment prevented him from using his rational decision-making skills?

Regardless of our opinion of 'why' the kid has diminished decision-making skills, or sense of responsibility, the reality is that the net effect of either case is that the individual lacked proper judgment and requires unique rehabilitation.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2014, 09:24:54 AM by ValthazarElite »

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #17 on: February 07, 2014, 09:51:33 AM »
The problem with your analogy, Valthazar, is that the exact behaviour that got four people killed is being extended here. Their argument appears to be "Being sheltered from the consequences of his actions has made him incapable of making decisions to the point that people are dying, so let's keep doing that", which seems like rather faulty logic to me. Other people who kill because of impaired reasoning? We remove them from society and treat them, so as to minimize harm. Why is this different from those cases, other than money?

Edit: I accidentally a word.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2014, 10:15:04 AM by Ephiral »

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #18 on: February 07, 2014, 09:56:38 AM »
My personal views are probably more in line with yours and Lux12's.  But this is just the legal system doing what the legal system does - attorneys who are able to make convincing cases will win, whether we necessarily agree or not.

Offline Iniquitous

Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #19 on: February 07, 2014, 11:16:55 AM »
The problem with your analogy, Valthazar, is that the exact behaviour that got four people killed is being extended here. Their argument appears to be "Being sheltered from the consequences of his actions has made him incapable of making decisions to the point that people are dying, so let's keep doing that", which seems like rather faulty logic to me. Other people who kill because of impaired reasoning? We remove them from society and treat them, so as to minimize harm. Why is this different from those cases, other than money?

Edit: I accidentally a word.


"Affluenza is a term used by the psychologist testifying for Couch at the disposition phase of the case, to describe children who have a sense of entitlement, are irresponsible, and make excuses for poor behavior because parents have not set proper boundaries.

The resulting public anger is understandable: Intoxication manslaughter is always by nature a senseless crime, and sadly not all that uncommon. So then, what about Couch's case is so much more controversial than other DUI fatalities? The answer has to do with our perception of the juvenile justice system, and our understanding of the adolescent mind. The other reason: our culture's firmly entrenched intolerance for spoiled rich kids.

If you ask most people, they likely think "affluenza" was used by Couch as a defense to the crime—that he sought to avoid all responsibility. But there are two phases of a criminal case, whether in adult court or juvenile court. First is the guilt phase. The main questions asked here are: "did he do it?" or "is he responsible for doing it?" This is the part of trial that we are most familiar with from TV: where a defendant is found guilty or not guilty by jury verdict.
If a child is adjudicated delinquent (the equivalent of "guilty" in adult court), the judge moves on to phase two: disposition. In juvenile court, this means the judge determines how to best treat, rehabilitate or supervise the child.

Some of the dispositions mirror the punitive spirit of the adult system, but a juvenile judge has more options: A child can be ordered to pay restitution, have an imposed curfew, or be sent to a secure educational facility. In lesser cases, I've seen plenty of judges order that apology letters be written, and even given assigned reading of self-help or inspirational books, with a book report due at the next court date. The overall mission of juvenile courts is redemption, not retribution.
In Couch's case, Texas has a relatively tough "determinate sentencing" scheme in which juveniles can be sentenced to adult terms in prison that begin when the child ages out of the juvenile system.

In other words, he could potentially leave juvenile placement when he turns 19, and be transferred to adult prison to serve the remainder of his time. That's what the prosecution sought in this case: adult time for the child that would begin when he turned 19, ostensibly with credit for the time served in the juvenile system (from 16-19 years of age).

So, it's important to understand that Couch did not assert that he was "not guilty" by reason of affluenza. Rather, affluenza was raised in the sentencing phase, as a critical piece of "mitigation."

"Mitigating circumstances" are not a justification or excuse of the offense in question. That part of the case has already concluded with a verdict or judgment. Rather, mitigating evidence may be considered as extenuating or reducing the degree of moral culpability as the court considers a proper sentence.
If we agree that defendants at least have a right to ask for mercy from the court, it follows that they must be able to present reasons for that mercy. Of course, the judge may give this evidence the weight he or she deems appropriate.
Affluenza was never going to exonerate Couch. Affluenza only had the potential to be one of several factors considered in arriving at appropriate punishment or rehabilitation.

Other mitigating factors courts consider are school performance, a lack of prior contacts with law enforcement, and a willingness to take responsibility for one's actions in court. In Couch's case, for example, we know that he admitted (the equivalent of "pleaded guilty") to intoxication manslaughter, which means he took responsibility.
Any juvenile legal practitioner will tell you that if these other factors are in the client's favor, he's a likely candidate for lenient disposition, particularly if there are no prior arrests. Of course, the tragic deaths of four persons also weighs heavily against Couch in this case.

At its core, affluenza was a poorly chosen catchphrase that obfuscated the important underlying point: that, rich or poor, this was another child who, according to an expert qualified by the court, suffered from the same lack of supervision and guidance that plagues millions of American children, irrespective of class. That's all.
Many are offended at this idea because the child comes from a wealthy family. But being so offended reflects a belief that children of wealth can never have any developmental problems, or be neglected in a way that affects their adolescent judgment.

Worse, this view suggests that only the working class or poor are entitled to claim environmental or neurological disadvantages. That is an indefensible position.
It's true that society has always had a jaded view of rich youth and their antics. That's an understandable sentiment—reality TV alone shoves plenty of privileged, unsympathetic characters in our faces every night. "

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/18/opinion/cevallos-case-for-affluenza/

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Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #20 on: February 07, 2014, 11:33:24 AM »
        Just couldn't stop thinking this article sounded oddly familiar...  Though in the current case, it seems the judge at least tried to place him under some form of observation for a longer term.

        I have to say I really don't "get" the role of alcohol in society much of the time.  It's something I tried once and didn't care for even a mild sock to my consciousness.  But it's kind of like guns:  In and of itself, it's one of those things that seems okay for so many people to try and get wrong, repeatedly.  Of course the money and the lawyer had a big part in this particular case.  But given that the hypothetical 12 year old generally can't have the keys to the car and the skills to keep it on the road very long regardless of blood alcohol content (with a common exception of farm machinery, not so applicable here)...  It's kind of ridiculous to suggest anyone could be so insulated from society not to reasonably care about the impact of a DWI at all. 

           And for $450k / yr., they could certainly afford at least to keep him under insanely cozy house arrest for a few years.  Wonder whatever that facility has that "warrants" the price tag.  That's the cost of a few whole 4-year college educations, even decent private ones with living expenses in smaller US cities, packed into a year there...
« Last Edit: February 08, 2014, 03:58:25 PM by kylie »

Offline Iniquitous

Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #21 on: February 07, 2014, 11:42:52 AM »
       ...It's kind of ridiculous to suggest anyone could be so insulated from society not to reasonably care about the impact of a DWI at all. 

Have you been around the younger generation in America lately? I can certainly see how they could be so insulated. Mommy and Daddy constantly save their butts, Mommy and Daddy constantly bail them out and smooth things over for them. Mommy and Daddy never allow their precious little Junior be held accountable for anything.  You see this with parents blaming the schools and teachers for their child flunking. You see this on these reality tv shows that flood our televisions.

I would not say that this kid doesn't care about the impact of DWI. I would say that his reasoning and decision making skills are so stunted that he is incapable of doing right because his parents have always sheltered him from the consequences of his poor choices. I would say that there is some part of him that understands the gravity of what he did wrong now - after four people are dead but he was incapable of seeing the possibility of someone dying when he made the decision to drink and drive.

It is that which the defense and court approved psychologist argued in court.

Offline Zakharra

Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #22 on: February 07, 2014, 01:17:36 PM »
I would not say that this kid doesn't care about the impact of DWI. I would say that his reasoning and decision making skills are so stunted that he is incapable of doing right because his parents have always sheltered him from the consequences of his poor choices. I would say that there is some part of him that understands the gravity of what he did wrong now - after four people are dead but he was incapable of seeing the possibility of someone dying when he made the decision to drink and drive.

Underlined emphasis is mine.  Sadly there are adults that do the same thing. They know there's a chance of someone being killed if they drink and drive, but it doesn't stop them because that will always happen to someone else. Not them.  If adults do the same thing (drink and drive) and get nailed for any deaths they caused, why should he get a lesser sentence? With all of the news and a lot of the games today, you'd have to be very very VERY isolated, or really young to not know the dangers of drinking and driving.

Offline Iniquitous

Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #23 on: February 07, 2014, 01:23:58 PM »
The judge felt that sentencing him to a prison sentence after he served a year in juvenile would not achieve the desired result. You all seem to get it in your heads that anyone who tries to bring facts into the debate automatically agree with what happened.

So, just to get it through to you... I do not agree with the judge. I feel that he should serve the 20 year sentence the DA was going for. But, it is the US legal system that allows a judge in a juvenile case to make a sentencing on his or her own. Which this judge did. If you do not like it, go to school to become a lawyer, spend your time trying cases and when allowed, try for a judgeship.

The only thing I tried to do was put out there what the reasoning was behind the affluenza defense since there seemed to be some confusion on how it was used.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Not Guilty by Reason of 'Affluena'?
« Reply #24 on: February 07, 2014, 01:26:32 PM »
Underlined emphasis is mine.  Sadly there are adults that do the same thing. They know there's a chance of someone being killed if they drink and drive, but it doesn't stop them because that will always happen to someone else. Not them.  If adults do the same thing (drink and drive) and get nailed for any deaths they caused, why should he get a lesser sentence? With all of the news and a lot of the games today, you'd have to be very very VERY isolated, or really young to not know the dangers of drinking and driving.

It's the same reason we are legally sympathetic (to a degree) of underage kids who 'sext' pictures of themselves to their boyfriends or girlfriends, even though this is a felony of distribution of child pornography, and more often than not, these pictures get into the hands of real adult predators.

They emphasize this everywhere, kids should definitely know better.  But we still go lenient on them, as evidenced by more and more states viewing this as a misdemeanor rather than a felony.