Friday, December 13, 2013

DWR -- Driving While Rich


 Affluenza.

The word is not even in a common Webster’s dictionary.

Nevertheless, a judge sentenced a youth to probation for killing four people based on her belief that the teenager suffers from this non-existent psychological malady.

The boy faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison in the deadly, drunken crash in which he ran his truck over a mother and daughter and two others in Texas.

In considering a sentence for the 16-year-old, Texas District Judge Jean Boyd heard testimony from a defense psychologist who said the teen suffered from “affluenza,” a pseudo-psychological condition that boils down to “rich people do bad things because they don’t know any better.”

(Tell that to Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and 1 percent of all Americans.)

This affliction -- sounds like something you catch from touching money -- is rejected by real psychiatrists and became fashionable in a 2007 book of the same name.

Yes, you guessed it. The Texas kid comes from an “affluent” family, and his parents allegedly let him get away with everything (including murder?). So, because of his affluenza he didn’t know enough right from wrong to not have gotten drunk and run over people. (Poor kids obviously know better.)

So the kid is getting off with a decade of probation and must “rehabilitate” himself at a swank Newport Beach center in California, for which his neglectful parents are footing the $450,000 annual bill. (What? Obamacare doesnt cover it.)

We now focus on the judge. Judge Jean is no Judge Judy. Judge Jean Boyd graduated from South Texas College of Law, and has been chair of the juvenile justice committee of the Texas State Bar. But, I wonder whether she paid attention in evidence class when the professor talked about Kelly-Frye case law. The U.S. Supreme Court precedent says that if scientific evidence isn’t generally accepted by the scientific community to which it belongs -- in this case psychiatry -- it is inadmissible in court. Affluenza does not pass the Kelly-Frye sniff test, Madam Judge, even in sentencing, where rules are sometimes stretched. Additionally, anyone who vigorously reads Supreme Court decisions is aware justices often turn to dictionaries for meanings of words, and base rulings on common definitions. Had Judge Jean simply grabbed the Webster’s on her desk for a look-see, she wouldn’t have found “affluenza” in it. That act might have provided her a strong hint that it doesn't exist.
 
Probation for four manslaughters was an ignorant bow to fad science by the judge.

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