Friday, December 13, 2013

A "Condition" For Everyone

As a regular observer of the criminal justice system, I can tell you that crime and punishment as it pertains to those who can afford a top-notch attorney--and those who are assigned an over-loaded public defender--are two very different experiences.  OJ Simpson and Michael Jackson showed us that you can get away with the most heinous of crimes--if you've got enough cash to hire an army of lawyers, experts and investigators that can dedicate hours to breaking down and debunking a prosecutor's case.  The latest example of this comes from Texas this week, where the son of millionaire parents was sentenced for the death of four people he ran over while driving drunk.  The defense for the 16-year old came up with a very unique argument against incarceration--they claim the boy "suffers" from "Affluenza".

If you aren't familiar with the term, "Affluenza" refers to the belief that if you are a rich kid, your parents will be able to buy your way out of any situation you might get yourself into.  A psychologist for the defense argued at sentencing that the boy really believed that there would be no personal consequences to getting liquored up and driving around that night, because Mom and Dad would flash some cash and find a way to keep Junior from having to face the music.  That doctor also claimed that psychiatric programs in the correctional system wouldn't be able to meet the needs of the boy--and that is why his parents should be allowed to send him to an "intensive" rehab center in Southern California--which will cost them 450-thousand dollars a year.

While you laugh and roll your eyes at this, the Texas judge apparently bought it--because he dismissed the state's argument for the maximum 20-year prison sentence and instead put the teen on probation for ten years.  That's right, the kid runs over and kills four people--and he gets to go home to the mansion with his folks.  In handing down the sentence, the judge claimed that the "Affluenza" argument didn't sway his position--and that by putting the teen on probation the state can "keep an eye on him better".  But all "His Honor" has done, is give credence to the argument that "Affluenza" is a real thing!  What message has just been sent to every rich kid not just in Texas, but across the country (and don't think that this isn't getting "shared" and "liked" a couple of million times on social media)?  "Act like an out-of-control moron and claim that you didn't think there would be any consequences and the judge will let you walk--just like the Texas kid!"

How do you suppose that judge would have reacted if the attorney for a poor, black kid who had been drunk and run over four people had argued that his client suffered from "Poverty-itus"--a belief that since I have nothing to lose--I can just act recklessly and the consequences don't matter?  I can guarantee, that kid would be spending every day of that maximum sentence behind bars--because he is a "danger to society". 

I think Lady Justice is wearing a blindfold in this case to cover up her tears.

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