By Robert A. Vella

Affluenza:  a psychological disorder afflicting wealthy people with an abnormal sense of entitlement and privilege which can produce feelings, in some individuals, that they are above the moral and legal norms of society.

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The following drunk-driving manslaughter case in Texas provides a poignant example, in a tragically long list of examples, of the structural inequalities built into the American judicial system.  When wealth, or other circumstantial factors such as race, effectually determines the outcome of criminal prosecutions, there can be no equal protection under the law as codified by the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

When reading this story, consider what would have likely resulted had the defendant been a poverty-stricken teenager from a racial or ethnic minority group.

From:  Texas boy avoids jail in deaths of four after psychologist testifies wealth spoiled him

A Texas boy, 16, has received probation after pleading guilty to killing four people in a drunk-driving collision earlier this year. A psychologist who testified in the boy’s defense said he had been spoiled by his parents’ wealth and that he suffered from what he called “affluenza.”

Prosecutors said the boy was driving seven of his friends in his Ford F-350 on June 15 when the car collided with a group of people on the side of the road on the outskirts of Fort Worth. They were Breanna Mitchell of Lillian, Tex., whose car had broken down, Brian Jennings, and Hollie and Shelby Boyles, who had come to her assistance, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. All four were killed, and two passengers in the truck were critically injured.

The boy pleaded guilty last week to manslaughter and assault while intoxicated. He had been speeding, and had Valium and a high level of alcohol in his blood, according to testimony.

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Prosecutors had asked that the boy be sentenced to 20 years in prison, but Gary Miller, the psychologist who testified in his behalf, recommended counseling. Miller said that the boy had an unhealthy relationship with his wealthy parents, who used him as a tool and a hostage to extract concessions from each other.

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The judge in the case, Jean Boyd, rejected the suggestion that the boy’s parents were ultimately responsible for his actions, and told him at his sentencing that he was at fault, according to WFAA.

Yet Boyd agreed that the defendant needs therapy and said that she feared he would not receive it from Texas’s juvenile system.

Members of the victims’ families were disappointed with the judge’s decision.

19 thoughts on ““Affluenza” defense in Texas drunk-driving manslaughter case exposes inequality in U.S. judicial system

  1. Am not shocked at this Bob. I think wealth in many cases skew justice to favour the rich. I see this happen even here at home but it saddens me all the same


  2. Affluenza, is that the new and improved name for it? Not simply arrogance, solipsism, indifference and heartlessness? Whatever we call it — it’s an epidemic, a serious threat to public health and welfare.

    You always find such interesting material to post, thank you! – Linda


  3. Robert,
    Could have easily substituted George W. Bush for the young man and Iraq War for the crash. Someday war criminals and wealthy young men will face proper punishments. Until then those who “get away” with crimes that are sometimes gigantic will find it impossible to escape from the guilt of knowing what they did – all the days of their lives.


  4. Can young Black men in inner cities now plead ‘povertenza’ as a means to escape prosecution and seek therapy since they will not get it from(insert name of juvenile system here__________?) Nah, didn’t think so!!!!

    Of all the crap, I’ve read, this takes the d@*#& cake!!!


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  6. This boy needs to go to jail. He will be an utterly useless member of society if he doesn’t receive some kind of punishment that HE finds unacceptable. What he did was unacceptable, the people who argued his defence and his parents are unconscionable, and have proved to him again how little they care for his wellbeing and growth. Getting away with it will probably destroy any chance of him becoming a mature adult. No matter what people say, kids know right from wrong, No amount of counselling will change the facts of what he did nor give him redemption.


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  8. The lawyering monopoly is working – pay big bucks to lawyerfish.& SHAZAM YOUR SINS ARE WASHED AWAY,

    “My client suffers from being a self centered prick YOUR ROBED HOLINESS.”

    In a culture where everything is for sale …


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