Timing Of “Affluenza,” Rice Cases Points To Issues Of Unequal Justice


The timing of Ethan Couch’s capture in the “affluenza” case is likely to raise questions about equal justice under the law, says the Christian Science Monitor. The manhunt for Couch ended the same day a Cleveland grand jury declined to bring charges against two police officers who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014. “You can't help but be struck by the juxtaposition of the Tamir Rice grand jury decision and [the Couch case],” says law Prof. Daniel Filler of Drexel University. “What we see is how apparently neutral rules are always applied case by case, whether it's parole officers or judges or police officers, based on cultural factors.” It isn't the first time that the Couch case has been juxtaposed uncomfortably with the death of a black teenager. For many Americans transfixed by the Trayvon Martin shooting in 2012, the verdict in the Couch case offered more distinct “proof of separate justice systems in this country, one for the rich and another for the poor, and Ethan became the face of wealth and privilege,” wrote Dallas Magazine in a story on Couch and his parents.

“What is the likelihood if this was an African-American, inner-city kid that grew up in a violent neighborhood to a single mother who is addicted to crack and he was caught two or three times … what is the likelihood that the judge would excuse his behavior and let him off because of how he was raised?” psychologist Suniya Luthar told The Associated Press in 2013. A growing list of disparities has affected how Americans think about how punishment is meted out. The Pew Research Center says only 32 percent of Americans think the country has made enough changes to its justice system, down from 49 percent in 2014. The percentage of Americans who say that more change is needed rose from 46 to 59 percent in the same span.

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