AUSTIN - A decision by a Texas judge this week to give an affluent teenager probation after he killed four people while driving drunk has sparked a backlash and complaints of a miscarriage of justice.
State District Judge Jean Boyd on Tuesday sentenced the 16-year-old boy to 10 years probation and ordered him to get therapy. The teen was driving a pickup truck when he ran down four people who were helping fix a vehicle at the roadside in the Fort Worth area.
A psychologist for the defence said the teen suffered from "affluenza", a condition where a person feels shielded from problems by money, having led a life of privilege paid for by his parents, local media reported.
The four people killed in the June incident were Breanna Mitchell, whose car broke down, Hollie and Shelby Boyles, who lived nearby and came out to help and youth minister Brian Jennings, who stopped to help, the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported.
The paper has been flooded with comments on the sentence, almost all of which were critical of the judge.
"It is a slap in the face to people who rely on the justice system and just reinforces the idea that the best defence is loads of money," Shirley Watson wrote in a comment to the paper on Thursday.
The teen driver had three times the legal limit of alcohol in his system at the time arrest, prosecutors said. They were looking for a sentence of 20 years in jail.
Eric Boyles, whose wife and daughter died in the incident, said on CNN on Wednesday night that he was shocked at the sentence.
"There are absolutely no consequences for what occurred that day," Boyles told the broadcaster.
"The primary message has to absolutely be that money and privilege can't buy justice in this country, that it's not okay to drink and drive and kill four people, and severely injure another, and not have any consequences."