Affluenza: A terrible social disease unique to the 20th century. Most commonly found in the car culture it is typified by the inability to resist impulse purchases. Symptoms include debt, credit cards, inferiority complex, greed and an inability to enjoy life.

Affluenza has cropped up more recently as a criminal defense, and even as an after-the fact consideration in criminal sentencing. Two recent criminal cases highlight this. The first was the case of Ethan Couch, a Texas teenager who killed four people while driving drunk. His defense as articulated in testimony on his behalf by a psychologist was, literally:
“He never learned that sometimes you don’t get your way.... He had the cars and he had the money. He had freedoms that no young man would be able to handle.”
And so, in February 2014, this confessed killer of four was allowed by judge Jean Boyd to walk away with probation because, awwww, poor rich kid, he was brought up too rich to know right from wrong, to adequately police his own behavior in a civilized society. This sends a most shocking message recapitulated in the second case. Robert H. Richards IV, uber-wealthy du Pont family heir, raped his three-year-old daughter. Upon his conviction and sentencing in March 2014, Delaware judge Jan Jurden suspended his entire sentence (effectively setting him free) upon finding that “defendant will not fare well in a Level 5 setting” (i.e. in prison). This is astounding, naturally, because who, exactly, does “fare well” in prison?

And so the question is now open -- if “I'm just too rich” is a valid defense to drunken murder and child rape.... what next?

233 outraged words

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