Jump directly to the content
All the Justice Money Can BuyJoe Gratz / Flickr

All the Justice Money Can Buy

Jan 4 2016
From the ‘affluenza’ teen to Steven Avery, there’s a reason we care so much about a fair trial.

Shauna Jennings will never forget June 16, 2013. It was supposed to be a happy celebration, the day of her son’s graduation party. But when they came upon an accident on their way, her husband—a pastor and a good man to the core—stopped to help a stranded driver and got struck by a speeding truck. He died at the scene, the sudden, tragic end to their 20-year marriage. Jennings was not alone in her grief; in all, four pedestrians were killed, and two others severely injured.

The person responsible—though “irresponsible” seems to be a more apt term in the case—is a name we know from headlines: Ethan Couch. At 16, he drove his daddy’s pickup at 70 miles per hour, his blood alcohol at three times the legal limit thanks to two cases of beer shoplifted from a local Wal Mart. He also tested positive for Valium.

From time to time, we read about such accidents in the news and lament how one person’s bad decisions and foolish actions gravely impact families and communities. The small solace for their victims is the hope for justice. But in this case, Ethan Couch’s defense uses the term the teen is now notoriously known for: affluenza.

Couch is supposedly the victim of his family’s own wealth—bailed out too many times, poorly parented, and unable to be held responsible for his actions. He expressed no remorse. The affluenza defense saved him from prison, and the Texas teen was sentenced to a decade of probation, a stint in rehab, and no drugs or alcohol.

Last month, 18-year-old Couch was accused of violating his probation by a Twitter user who posts a video of him playing beer pong. Officials issued a warrant for his arrest when he failed to show for a scheduled parole appointment. Couch and his mother, Tonya, threw a final party in the states then headed to Mexico. On December 28, the two are located in Puerto Vallarta, after ordering a Domino’s pizza. Currently, Tonya has been extradited to the US, but Ethan—with his blond hair and scraggly beard dyed black—remains in Mexico, awaiting a judge’s decision.

I thought back to Ethan Couch’s scenario, and the relatively mild penalty he faces, as my husband and I binge-watched the Netflix series Making a Murderer. This documentary follows a Wisconsin man who was exonerated from rape after spending 18 years in prison, only to end up convicted of murder within years after getting out. Steven Avery’s case contains enough unanswered questions to make viewers uneasy and to question whether justice has indeed been served. We want to live in the land of the fair trial, where no matter your race, sex, or socio-economic status—whether you’re a Wisconsin scrap yard worker or a rich kid from Fort Worth—you can be assured of the same constitutional rights.

Related Topics:Crime; Law Enforcement
Support our work. Subscribe to CT and get one year free.


To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

More from Her.menutics
How to Address America’s Foster Care Crisis? It Takes a Village

How to Address America’s Foster Care Crisis? It Takes a Village

The next wave of the evangelical adoption movement will rely on the church's support.
There's Never Enough Time

There's Never Enough Time

What I’ve learned as a working mother about the limits of time management.
Why Adult Coloring Works for Christians

Why Adult Coloring Works for Christians

I mocked the coloring book trend, until I discovered it for myself.
Does the Road to Character Run Through Silicon Valley?

Does the Road to Character Run Through Silicon Valley?

The HBO show draws us in with deeper questions about power and morals.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

So Hot Right Now

Blessed Are the Agnostics

How I learned to see my unbelieving husband through God’s eyes.


  • Why churches will be key to the future of evangelicals2019 orphan-care movement https://t.co/77yY6KugZC
  • RT @alissamarie: Anyhow I got cranky about ALICE and less cranky about some other things in the latest newsletter: https://t.co/WWINXrmFJh
  • RT @thinkchristian: If you haven't watched the Chewbacca Lady yet we have it here, along w/ some thoughts on joy https://t.co/WBUDIFnqLc ht2026
  • @KellyMRosati @KirstenPowers The best stories and friendships are!
  • @KirstenPowers @KellyMRosati Totally didn't realize you were BFFs! That's great!

What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
All the Justice Money Can Buy