Judge Jean Boyd is a Republican judge who has presided over the Texas 323rd Family District Court since 1995. She is now at the center of world-wide attention because she sentenced 16-year-old named Ethan Couch to probation and entry into a private, exclusive $450,000 Southern California coastal rehab program after Couch – while over 3 times the legal limit of alcohol intoxication from drinking stolen beer and under the influence of Valium – drove an automobile and caused the deaths of four people and injured 10 others. Couch’s defense was that he was suffering from “affluenza” – a disease that is suffered by rich people who behave irresponsibly because they believe that their position of wealth and privilege will exempt them from the consequences of their bad acts. In this frankly fictitious interview, Judge Boyd explains her reasoning.
PEOPLE OF EARTH: Judge Boyd, thank you for agreeing to speak with us today.
JUDGE JEAN BOYD: My pleasure. I look forward to every opportunity to get the word out about the evils of Obamacare and how wrong it is, morally and economically, to give anything to poor people because all it will do is encourage them to be poor.
POE: We aren’t going to talk about Obamacare today, Judge.
BOYD: For heavens sake, why not? Other than the liberal conspiracy to prevent crazy people from exercising their 2nd Amendment rights to buy automatic weapons, Obamacare is the most important issue our nation faces. When desperate poor people no longer worry about being able to afford to get sick, then they are less likely to tolerate slave wages and poor working conditions. That will mean higher wages, higher prices and the end of our Christian nation as we know it.
POE: Although that is undoubtedly true, we are here today to talk about your decision to sentence Ethan Couch to probation after killing four people because he was suffering from “affluenza.”
BOYD: Yes. I did that based on the testimony of an expert.
POE: You mean Dr. Gary Miller, a psychologist the Couch family hired, who testified that Couch was the victim of his parents wealth and overindulgence, and that his family felt that money would solve any problem?
BOYD: That’s the one. Did I mention that he is an expert? That poor boy needs rehabilitation, not incarceration.
POE: And when you say “rehabilitation” you are referring to the private Newport Beach rehabilitation facility in Souther California which costs $450,000 a year that Couch’s extremely wealthy father said he would pay for?
BOYD: Absolutely. That was parts of my judgment. It is important to send someone suffering from an illness to a place where they are comfortable around people who are familiar.
POE: And, in this case, Couch needs a luxurious environment by the beach surrounded by rich people?
BOYD: I’m glad you understand. Are you wealthy?
BOYD: Do you have any other questions?
POE: Yes. Is it your opinion that being wealthy is a defense against manslaughter?
BOYD: Not wealth itself. But the affects of being wealthy can lead to an illness known as “affluenza” and it is that mental disability that makes the wealthy individual not responsible for his or her actions. How can wealthy, white people be held responsible for anything when they suffer from affluenza?
POE: So Affluenza is a disease caused by extreme wealth that is a mitigating factor – an excuse – justifying probation instead of jail or prison.
POE: Why isn’t extreme poverty a disease that justifies probation instead of incarceration?
BOYD: Poverty is not a disease. It is a punishment from God for being lazy and shiftless. Wealthy people, such as myself, are provided with wealth and privilege by God as a reward for hard work. If poor people were willing to work hard, they would be wealthy, too.
POE: So affluenza is the result of a gift from God.
BOYD: Yes! Good point! I suspect that, maybe, affluenza is part of God’s plan, which is another reason to go soft on wealthy people who commit crimes.
POE: You sentenced Ethan Couch to spend time in an exclusive spa -
BOYD: An expensive rehabilitation facility and spa.
POE: Ethan Couch’s disease is arrogance encouraged by wealth and privilege.
BOYD: Yes. Exactly.
POE: Why isn’t there a counterpart for anger encouraged by poverty and disadvantage?
BOYD: That makes no sense.
POE: Let me give you an example. About a year ago you sentenced a 14 year old African-American boy to 10 years in prison for accidentally killing a man.
BOYD: I sure did. That little monster punched that man, who fell and hit his head on the pavement and eventually died. That black boy killed a person.
POE: Ethan Couch had a history of drug and alcohol use and drunk driving. He stole two cases of beer, got drunk, went driving and killed four people, injuring ten others – some catastrophically. Sixteen year old Sergio Molina survived the accident but is now paralyzed for the rest of his life.
BOYD: Yes, but Ethan Couch suffers from a disease.
POE: Why wasn’t that 14 year old black boy suffering from DCS?
POE: Disadvantaged Citizen Syndrome.
BOYD: You really aren’t listening. Ethan Couch’s wealth and privilege caused him to have the emotional and intellectual capacity of a twelve year old boy. It would be wrong to punish him with something so extreme as time in prison.
POE: The State of Texas has no problem executing retarded black men with a mental age of 12 or even younger.
BOYD: I am offended by the term “retarded.”
POE: Really? That offends you? Letting a rich kid get away with killing four people because he is rich and emotionally immature while executing mentally challenged black men who’s only difference from the rich white kid is that they are poor and black – that doesn’t offend you?
BOYD: That hasn’t happened. You liberals are always making things up. Name one time that has happened.
POE: Mavin Wilson. A 54 year old black guy with with IQ of 61. Executed in Texas on August 7, 2012.
BOYD: He wasn’t retarded.
POE: Texas law states that an IQ of 70 or less qualifies as retarded.
BOYD: You’re missing the point here. Ethan Couch’s family raised him to believe that his wealth and race bought privilege.
POE: Looks like they were right.
BOYD: That poor child was raised in an environment with no link between his behavior and consequences.
POE: So sending him to an expensive, luxury rehab center on the beach in Southern California thousands of miles away from his parents will teach him how not to feel privileged because he is white and wealthy? Your defense for his bad acts is that he was ignored and had money thrown at him, but you’re sending him away and spending a lot of money on him. How is this going to rehabilitate him? How will that cure him of the parental neglect and over privilege that you say caused him to get drunk and kill four people? Is ten years of probation “better” than any amount of prison time? Do you think it will be effective in altering his behavior? Isn’t your judgment in his favor just more proof that the American justice system is designed by politicians paid by the rich to protect the rich at the expense of everyone else?
JUDGE BOYD: This interview is over.
POE: Oh no it isn’t. It has just begun. What you did wasn’t justice. It was an anthem to the power of privilege. You have proven that American justice isn’t fair and isn’t equal. You’ve shown that justice in America is for sale at a price that only the wealthy can afford. You will never get a good night’s sleep again. What you did has outraged republicans and democrats, liberals and conservatives alike. We are united in our condemnation of your abominable decision to let this kid go with a slap on the wrist and a sentence sending him to a luxury resort paid for by his rich father. We will not let you forget or pretend you behaved in any way as a judge is expected to behave.
The American people know the game is rigged in favor of rich people. We know the rich post bail and the poor go to jail. And we tolerate a certain measure of that kind of corruption. But what you did went too far. You opened up the sore and showed the rot infesting the body politic. Your career as a judge is over. You just don’t know it yet.
UPDATE: Judge Boyd is now expected to retire, but a petition is circulating demanding that Texas Governor Perry remove Judge Boyd from the bench immediately.