It's the topic of conversation across the country – a Tarrant County juvenile judge recently sentenced a 16-year-old drunk driver who killed four people to 10 years of probation.
Defense attorneys who often handle high-profile cases are deeply divided over rehabilitation versus punishment in this case, and whether money matters when it comes to justice.
The only confinement Ethan Couch will experience is from now until the judge decides where he will go for rehabilitation.
The decision in the Couch case has created a divide among attorneys over Judge Jean Boyd. By definition, to judge is to form an opinion about something or someone after careful thought; to regard someone as either good or bad; to make an official decision about a legal case.
Anthony Lyons has tried cases before Boyd and says the facts of the Couch case is only part of what goes into the judge's decision making.
"Judge Boyd's responsibility is to be the person who decided how the case is going to be disposed," said Lyons. "She has to look at everything. It's not easy."
In hoping to rehabilitate Couch, Judge Boyd ruled he undergo therapy at a long-term, in-patient facility, that he would be sentenced to 10 years', and if he violates, he could go to prison for the length of his probation.
If sentenced to the Texas Youth Commission, he could be free in two years.
"But it still doesn't diminish the shock value of not really placing any weight, in my opinion, on the victims and their families," said criminal defense attorney Todd Shapiro.
Shapiro says he could not believe probation was given.
"I think like anybody that handles these kinds of cases…it's a very surprising result," he said.
Much has been made about the Couch family's wealth, and their ability to pay nearly $500,000 a year for a California rehab. Couch's defense has also been a hot topic: "affluenza," or children of richer families having a sense of entitlement.
"The defense attorneys in this case did a fantastic job of casting their client in the most favorable light possible to the court and the judge seemed to buy that defense," said Shapiro.
"The fact that some other kid doesn't have the benefit of a lawyer that this child has is not his fault, but it may be a question for the criminal justice system," said Lyons. "Maybe all children should have that type of representation."
KDFW FOX 4
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