With the release of Ethan Couch, “the affluenza teen”, who served two years for violating his probation from a 2013 drunk driving case, Texas law has made itself condemnable for blatant class discrimination.
“Class discrimination” is prejudice or discrimination on the basis of social class. In Couch’s original drunk driving case in which he served no prison time for, he killed four people while severely injuring two others. Since, he violated his probation, which was a seemingly generous gesture by the judicial system, and spent two years behind bars as a result.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Couch’s parents provided an affluent lifestyle for their son. His father founded Cleburne Metal Works, which had “estimated annual sales of 9.59 million” dollars, while his mother resided in “a gated, 5,000-square-foot ranch home set on 6 acres of land in rural Burleson, Texas.”
Meanwhile, former Texas State student, Shana Elliott, was under the influence when she crashed into Fabian Guerrero-Moreno and his pregnant wife, killing Moreno and the unborn child. Elliot was recently sentenced to seven years in prison each for two counts of intoxication manslaughter with a vehicle. It is worth noting there was no reported evidence of Elliott coming from a wealthy family or background thus disqualifying her as an “affluenza teen.”
Ethan Couch spent a total of two years behind bars after killing and injuring several individuals. Shana Elliott will spend multiple years in prison for the deaths of two people. Both individuals were intoxicated at the time of their incidents, and both were in the state of Texas.
The Texas judicial system is conveying that an individual with accumulated family wealth is less guilty than one with less wealth who committed a similar crime. Furthermore, it has exhibited a blatant disregard for wrongdoing. Even the use and defense of the term “affluenza” to deflect blame from wealthier people for their disregard of public safety seems to absolve them of their responsibility to follow the law.
Authorities have ignored the magnitude of the offenses and factored differences in affluence into their decisions in the treatment of Couch and Elliott’s cases. The decision to continue to allow Couch to be liberated for his unlawful actions sets a dangerous precedent about the application of law, especially given politicians and their donors will be writing, enforcing and interpreting laws that will disproportionately affect less wealthy people.
This flagrant display of discrimination calls for an immediate re-evaluation of the judicial system. The state’s actions are telling individuals of lesser backgrounds that they do not matter. It also appears as if citizens within a higher class will not be held accountable for their crimes. Furthermore, Texas allows environmental influence to be a defense in court but continues to incarcerate poor people daily who are no less influenced by their environment than Ethan Couch is. For the rule of law to be ethical and fair, it must be applied equally to all individuals.
Now is the time for the public to voice their outrage for these decisions. The forthcoming criticism of the Texas judicial system is warranted. The obvious class discrimination is both unjust and unmerited.
– Jaden Edison is an electronic media freshman