December 18, 2013
By NOMAAN MERCHANT
The Associated Press
Prosecutors said Monday that a North Texas teen's probation sentence for a drunken wreck that killed four pedestrians frustrates them, too, but they haven't found a way to seek a stiffer sentence.
The case of 16-year-old Ethan Couch has stirred outrage both in Texas and nationally, with both the presumptive Republican and Democratic nominees for Texas governor ripping the sentence in recent days. Couch was driving in June with a blood alcohol level of 0.24 percent — three times the legal limit for an adult — when he rammed his pickup truck into a crowd of pedestrians in rural Tarrant County, killing four people and severely injuring two others.
District Judge Jean Boyd gave Couch 10 years' probation last Tuesday after a sentencing hearing in which Couch's attorneys argued his wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility — an affliction one witness called "affluenza." Prosecutors had asked for a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
Melody McDonald, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office in Tarrant County, which has been inundated with calls for action in the case, said Monday that prosecutors frustrated by the sentence could not find any roads to an appeal.
Jessica Weaver, a professor at Southern Methodist University's Dedman School of Law, confirmed that under Texas' family code for juvenile offenses, prosecutors were limited in what they could do.
"Technically, only the child has the right to appeal," Weaver said.
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